U.S. Para Alpine Skiers Revel In Camaraderie During Slippery Day On Super-G Course
by Stuart Lieberman
Ravi Drugan and Tyler Carter (L-R) pose for a photo during the super-G competition at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 6, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
YANQING, China – As the U.S. Paralympic super-G skiers completed “The Rock” course one by one at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on Sunday, they stuck very close to the finish area, awaiting their teammates.
No matter where they placed or even whether they finished, every Team USA skier was embraced by someone. The camaraderie was palpable.
“We’re a family,” said Ravi Drugan, who finished 17th in the men’s sitting classification. “We’re all teammates and we’re all competing against each other, but at the end of the day we’re all supporting each other and spending so much time on the road together.”
Drugan, a Winter X Games bronze medalist making his Paralympic debut at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, clocked in at 1:18:79 on a warm day that led to slippery conditions on the slopes. The other American in the men’s sitting category, U.S. Army veteran David Williams, failed to finish.
The men’s standing category boasted five Americans in the super-G, with three of them finishing in the top 20. Vermont’s Spencer Wood (1:13.97) was 12th, Colorado’s Thomas Walsh (1:14:55) placed 15th, and Connecticut’s Andrew Haraghey (1:14.67) came 17th.
Walsh’s race was remarkable considering the context; he arrived in Yanqing for his second Paralympic Winter Games on Friday at 4 a.m. local time, five days later than scheduled due to COVID protocols. His super-G race was his very first run on the competition course.
“I woke up this morning with less than 48 hours in country, but I’m just so happy to be here I can’t complain,” he said.
Soaking in both the sun and the experience, the 27-year-old cancer survivor also expressed gratitude for his teammates and the brotherhood the men’s standing skiers have created over the last few seasons.
“Today, Spencer got me which is great,” Walsh said. “It’s a speed race and I’m a tech skier, so learning from those guys and seeing how they operate is helpful.
“We have a very nice group of guys. We are the biggest population of our team with five men’s standing skiers, and having us all support each other and race against each other and really root for each other is awesome.”
Three-time Paralympian Tyler Carter and two-time Paralympian Connor Hogan rounded out the group of men’s standing skiers in the super-G, both failing to finish.
Earlier in the day, Chicago native Allie Johnson finished 14th in the women’s super-G standing in her first Paralympic race after placing fifth in the discipline at the season’s final world cup. The 27-year-old clocked in at 1:39.50, as she let the butterflies out in her first run.
“Inspection was a little scary out there as it was slick, but that means it was fast,” Johnson said of the course. “I’m kind of overwhelmed with emotions. The team had a tough day yesterday, but we all came together, and that’s one of the best parts of being here. I just love being able to support one another. This was my first race, and I did it.”
In terms of support, Johnson, who also works as a therapeutic horseback riding instructor teaching kids with disabilities how to control a 1,000-plus pound animal, has been motivated by one of U.S. Para alpine skiing’s best in three-time Paralympic medalist and Beijing 2022 flag bearer Danelle Umstead.
“We broke our legs together in February of 2020 in the same downhill race,” Johnson said. “We were roommates in the hospital, and she’s been with me for this every single step of the way ever since. I’m so lucky she’s here with me after our recovery.”
The U.S. Paralympic skiers will return to the slopes on Monday for the super combined across all classifications as Team USA is still in search of its first alpine skiing medal at these Games. The super combined was moved up a day due to expected difficult race conditions on Tuesday.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Paralympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Stuart Lieberman has covered Paralympic sports for more than 10 years, including for the International Paralympic Committee at the London 2012, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.