SOLDIER HOLLOW — In a sport dominated by Europeans, two Americans stood atop the winners' podium Saturday at the Disabled Cross Country World Cup.
Conditions at Soldier Hollow in Wasatch Mountain State Park were difficult at best Saturday morning, with rain pouring down and athletes plowing through mashed-potatolike snow. U.S. skiers Michael Crenshaw and Steven Cook, however, battled through deteriorating wet snow to finish first and second in the men's 20 kilometer classical standing race. Crenshaw came across the finish line about 26 seconds ahead of his teammate.
"I knew they had it in them, but I think they surprised a lot of people," said the two skiers' coach, Jon Kreamelmeyer.
Distance races are Crenshaw's strength, posting a victory in Germany earlier this year and a second in Austria. Cook has long been considered one of the top athletes on the U.S. disabled team.
Kreamelmeyer said Soldier Hollow is the kind of course where both do well. The classical format is also both skiers' strong point. At next year's Paralympics, however, the 20 kilometer format will be freestyle. The coach believes his skiers, both foot amputees, will still be competitive against the Europeans next March.
"These guys know they can ski with anyone," he said.
Canadian Brian McKeever turned in another strong performance in the men's visually impaired, finishing about 52 seconds behind Frank Hoefle of Germany in the 20 kilometer race to take the silver.
"There's no shame in finishing second to him," McKeever said. "I skied hard today and skied a good race."
McKeever is one of the upcoming stars in disabled cross country skiing and at the age of 21 has a good 10 years of competition left in him. Saturday's race was the classical format, and that format will switch to freestyle for next year's Paralympics, which happens to be McKeever's strength.
"I expect to medal next year, but I'm not sure what color it will be. Hopefully, it will be one from the top."
American Candace Cable also turned in a strong performance, finishing sixth in the women's 10 kilometer sit-ski event. Ragnhild Myklebust of Norway won the event by more than three minutes over Dorothea Agetle of Italy.
Janna Argillander of Finland took the gold in the women's long-distance visually impaired and Tanja Kari won another gold in the women's standing event.
In the men's 15 kilometer sit-ski, K.E. Henriksen of Norway came in about one minute faster than Oliver Anthofer of Austria.
The World Cup will end Sunday morning with four relay events. The men's 2.5 kilometer sit-ski relay begins at 9 a.m., followed by the men's 5 kilometer standing classical and 5 kilometer standing freestyle. The women's 3x2.5 kilometer relay begins at 11:30 a.m. Soldier Hollow will also host the 2002 Paralympics one year from next week.