Alaska’s Paralympic alpine skiers were both injured in training runs in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Joe Tompkins, of Juneau, is awaiting surgery in a hospital in Germany, after a crash in a Thursday training run for the men’s sit-ski downhill race.
It was the same training run that took out Andrew Kurka, of Palmer, who broke his back. Kurka has already returned to Alaska. The 21-year-old wrote on Facebook that he was “excited to get the chance to represent” his country. “Perhaps a bit too excited,” he said.
Kurka has been partially paralyzed since he was 13, the result of an accident with a four-wheeler. Tompkins is paralyzed from the waist down due to an automobile crash in 1988.
According to Kurka’s Facebook entries, Tompkins, age 45, broke his femur in the training run.
News reports indicate that warm weather and soft snow at Sochi’s Rosa Khotur Alpine Center resulted in a number of crashes both in training and in the race.
Another U.S. teammate, Tyler Walker, crashed during the Saturday race and was taken off the mountain by helicopter. He is reportedly in stable condition.
Twenty-two competitors were entered in the men’s downhill; nine failed to complete the run.
Japan’s Akira Kano won the gold. Josh Dueck of Canada is the silver medalist and the bronze went to Takeski Suzuki, also of Japan.
The sit-skiers use a molded bucket-style seat on a suspension system and shock absorber mounted to a single ski.