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World Cup gold for Andrew Kurka and another top-10 for Rosie Brennan

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: February 15, 2020
  • Published February 15, 2020

A pair of Alaska skiers turned in solid efforts in World Cup competitions this weekend in Russia and Sweden.

In Russia, Andrew Kurka of Palmer, a two-time medalist at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games, won a World Cup sit-ski downhill race Friday in Juzhno-Sakhalinsk, a city on the island of Sakhalin.

In Sweden, Rosie Brennan of Anchorage, a 2018 Winter Olympian, registered her fourth top-10 result of the World Cup season by placing ninth in a freestyle cross-country race Saturday in Ostersund.

Kurka’s victory came in the third downhill race in a series of para alpine races in Russia.

The downhill is Kurka’s speciality and is the event he earned a Paralympic gold medal in two years ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the first two downhills, he broke bindings and crashed.

“After two rough crashes in the days before, I finally got to the bottom!” Kurka tweeted with the hashtag #IFinallyCrossedTheFinishLine.

The bumpy downhill course took its toll on a small field of sit-skiers. The first race had one finisher, the second had one finisher, and the third had two finishers.

Brennan faced the usual strong field of World Cup skiers in Ostersund. The 10-kilometer freestyle race kicked off the 2020 Ski Tour, a six-race, nine-day race series in two countries.

Therese Johaug led an all-Norway podium finish by dominating in 21 minutes, 49.7 seconds — 45 seconds ahead of anyone else.

Jessie Diggins of Minnesota placed eighth and Brennan ninth to give the U.S. Ski Team two skiers in the top 10. Diggins was 1:18.1 behind Johaug and Brennan was 1:25.7 behind.

All of Brennan’s top-10 finishes this season have come in 10K, three in freestyle races and one in a classic race. Brennan placed 23rd in a 10K a week ago in Falun, Sweden, and she was happy to see improvement in Ostersund.

“It was a good opening day of the Ski Tour 2020 for me,” she said by email. “After a frustrating weekend last week, I was ready to try to turn things around. The course here is hard and has lots of climbing so I felt it suited my strengths. It was fast conditions but there was also little rest so it was a tricky pacing game.

“I didn’t perfectly pace it and lost a little in the closing kilometers but I had much improved race feelings so I am very satisfied and hope I can continue this way throughout the tour.”

Anchorage’s Sadie Maubet Bjornsen placed 22nd to score World Cup points, which go to the top 30 finishers. Three other Anchorage women also raced — Hailey Swirbul (36th), Caitlin Patterson (40th) and Rosie Frankowski (56th).

In the men’s 15K freestyle, David Norris of Anchorage was the top American in 36th place. Logan Hanneman of Anchorage was 86th. Sjur Roethe led a Norway sweep of the men’s medals in 30:41.5; Norris was 1:27.7 back.

Diggins (5th), Bjornsen (7th) and Brennan (17th) all rank among the top 20 in the women’s World Cup overall standings.