Friday, January 4, 2008

Sun Valley skier finishes in top at Nationals

Express Staff Writer

Andy Soule, center, practices in Sun Valley in 2006. Photo by Mountain Express

At the U.S. Disabled Cross Country Championships at the Michigan State Nordic Training Center in Houghton, Mich., Sun Valley resident and handicapped veteran Andy Soule is making his mark.

The United States Ski Association national races began Dec. 31, 2007, and will run through Sunday, Jan. 6. Soule, who began his Nordic sit-ski career with Wood River Ability Program in 2006, is racing in his first season.

On Tuesday, Jan. 1, Soule, who lost both legs in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device went off in his proximity, had the fastest raw time in the 15-kilometer race at 1:02.56.3. Chris Klebl, an Austrian who lives in Utah and was paralyzed in a 1995 snowboarding accident, was second fastest at 1:03.47.2. However, when the timing factors, which help equalize times by disability, were used, Klebl was the winner. Soule was silver medalist and Sean Halsted, of Washington, paralyzed after a fall from a helicopter in 1998, took the bronze medal.

Not to be outdone, Soule came back and won the 10K-disabled race on Thursday, Jan. 3.

"Andy is still learning the sport, but he and Sean are so motivated and have such a good attitude," coach Jon Kreamelmeyer said. "They have a quiet determination and they're picking up the sport every time they race or train."

This year marks the first time the entire U.S. Disabled Cross Country Team is composed of sit-skiers.

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