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Alaska sit-skier Kurka captures two World Cup top prizes

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: March 16, 2017
  • Published March 15, 2017

The best ski season of Andrew Kurka's life got even better Wednesday.

After winning three medals at last month's World Championships, the Alaska sit-skier will leave this week's Para Alpine World Cup Finals in South Korea with two crystal globes — his prizes for finishing the season as the World Cup leader in downhill and super-G.

Kurka, a 25-year-old from Palmer, is the second Alaskan in history to win a World Cup crystal globe, joining cross-country skier Kikkan Randall, who has earned three in sprint racing.

"To be considered the best in the world, but more importantly, to be consistent, is something I've been aiming for for a long time," Kurka said in a race report at paralympic.org. "Through all the injuries, to achieve a goal and dream like this makes me more than ecstatic to see what comes next year."

Next year is the 2018 Winter Paralympics, where Kurka is motivated to make amends for 2014, when his Paralympics debut ended before it really started with a crash in downhill training in Sochi, Russia.

Until the last two seasons, Kurka, who was paralyzed in a 4-wheeler accident as a 13-year-old, had a habit of racing with abandon — some may say reckless abandon. He has incurred a variety of race-related injuries over the years, including two broken vertebrae in the Sochi crash.

In the last two winters, he has focused on skiing safely while still skiing fast, and the approach has paid off.

He won the gold medal in the downhill, silver in giant slalom and bronze in super-G at this year's World Championship in Italy and entered the World Cup Finals in Pyeongchang — the site of next year's Olympics and Paralympics — as the season leader in the downhill.

His lead was big enough that he was able to clinch the crystal globe despite failing to finish Sunday's downhill. Kurka won the downhill title with 280 points to beat Japan's Akira Kano, who had 215 points.

Kurka secured the crystal globe in super-G by winning Tuesday's race and finishing third in Wednesday's.

His bronze-medal finish Wednesday gave him a total of 380 points, enough to hold off Netherlands teenager Jeroen Kampschreur and New Zealand's Corey Peters. Kampschreur and Peters finished first and second, respectively, in Wednesday's super-G to finish tied for second place in the final standings with 346 points.

Kurka, whose best events are the speed events, is ranked seventh in the World Cup overall standings and is scheduled to race in the giant slalom and slalom later this week in Pyeongchang.

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