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Plenty of spills on course

SNOWBASIN — Training runs went off without a hitch, aside, maybe, for a few more spills than normal in preparation for the Chevy Truck Disabled Alpine World Cup.

But then, training runs have gone well on the Olympic downhill course. The test came Thursday with the running of the first World Cup race in six tries.

Five earlier races were either canceled because of no snow or too much snow.

And considering this is a new course skiers were unfamiliar with, more falls were expected.

Thursday, nearly 150 skiers got their bibs and waited near the starting gate for the first of four events — the downhill, followed by the super-G, giant slalom and slalom — over four days.

Aside from some mechanical differences, the scene at Snowbasin on Wednesday was not much different from what it was last week when the world's top downhill skiers waited patiently around the finish after training runs. The three World Cup races, however, were snowed out.

For this training day, competitors were either guided through the finish, in the case of blind skiers, or they skied through on one or two skis with some modifications. Some were as obvious as a mono ski, which is a chair with vehicle-like suspension on a single ski, or a hardly-noticeable prosthesis.

The range of disabilities may be broad, but the competitors resolve to do well isn't. Even skiers without sight bent their knees and brought in their arms to go faster on the last, steep straightaway to the finish.

Skiers came from all parts of the globe for this race. There were almost as many skiers from Austria, Spain, Germany and Japan as there were from the United States.

Two adopted Utah locals — Muffy Davis and Christopher Waddell, both of Park City — confessed their times on the training runs were less than acceptable.

Davis, who rides a mono ski, actually finished second in her class, despite two falls. The second one took her skidding through the finish on her side.

"It's the ski," she said as she gasps to put air in her lungs. "I'm not comfortable on the ski. I couldn't turn it. This is the second time I've tried it. I didn't like it the first time, and I didn't like it on this run. I'm going back to my old ski for the race."

She said she liked the course, but found it a little bumpy. But like she said, "That's a downhill."

Jennifer Kelchner, a gold medalist in the Paralympics downhill in Nagano three years ago, wasn't without her troubles. Being her first experience on the course, she said she "took it easy."

"It's a good downhill, but then I like any downhill. This is a course you need to be patient on and wait for things to come to you. To win I'm going to have to hold my tuck longer and simply go for it. I won't be able to hold back like I did today," said the California skier.

Waddell, who moved to Park City 18 months ago and is considered one of the most decorated skier on the disabled World Cup circuit, also struggled on his introductory run. "It was a nice training run as training runs go, but I'm going to have to do better to win. This was not a full-on race today, but it will be tomorrow. I'm going to have to go in and go after it," he said as he balanced on his mono ski.

U.S. skier Hannah Pennington probably summed up how she feels about the course best when she said, "It scared me out of my mind, but I loved it."

Because of the wide range of disabilities, times are weighted according to class. This allows a wider range of skiers to compete in one class.

The three remaining races — the super-G on Friday, giant slalom on Saturday and slalom on Sunday — will be open to the public. The super-G will start at 10 a.m., the remaining races at 9:30 a.m.

If all goes as scheduled, this would be the first full test of a World Cup event at Snowbasin.