Kurka grabs World Cup gold in monoskiing

Palmer's Andrew Kurka won a gold medal Friday in a World Cup downhill race at Panorama Mountain Village in British Columbia, putting him on the fast track for the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

The win came in the men's sitting division and was the first in a World Cup event for the 21-year-old Kurka, who rides a mono-ski and is a member of the U.S. Paralympics alpine ski team.

He is a good bet to be named to U.S. team that will compete in the Sochi Paralympics, which begin in March, shortly after the Winter Olympics end.

"It feels really great to win in what is really only my third international competition," Kurka said in a press release. "I'm just hoping to carry this through to Sochi. There are still more races here this week, so I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm feeling really good."

As of last August, Kurka was ranked in the top 10 worldwide and top three in the United States in downhill and super-G. The team selection for Sochi is based largely on world rankings.

More than 70 athletes from 13 countries are competing at Panorama, where competition concludes Tuesday. The next event for Team USA will be the IPC Alpine skiing World Cup from Jan. 17-20 in Copper Mountain, Colo.

Athletes earn points based on finishing place in World Cup events and those points are used to determine world rankings.

Harmanen paces UAA

Niko Harmanen led the UAA alpine ski team with a 14th-place finish in the men's giant slalom Friday in Bozeman, Mont., where the Seawolves competed in the first of two NCAA qualifiers at Big Sky Resort.

Harmanen, a junior, turned in a two-run time of 1 minute, 59.18 seconds. Junior Anna Berecz led the UAA women in 25th place, completing two runs in 2:05.76.

Denver's Trevor Philip posted the fastest men's time at 1:55.49 to beat a field of 40. Denver's Kristine Haugen bested a field of 36 women in 1:59.64.

The NCAA qualifier is a non-scoring team event that precedes the Montana State Invitational, which runs Saturday and Sunday.

Anchorage Daily News