Steamboat Paralympian returns home, departs for National Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It wouldn’t be hard to understand if Steamboat Springs’ first Paralympian, Allison Kunkel, was a little overwhelmed this week.
Kunkel returned from the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Tuesday night where she collected a seventh-place finish in the super-G and an eighth-place finish in the giant slalom.
On Friday, she left for Mammoth, California where she will compete in the 2018 U.S. Canadian Para Alpine National Championships on March 26 to 30.
“It’s been kind of crazy,’ Kunkel said. “I’m doing my best get caught up, and my teachers have been very understanding and supportive.”
Kunkel, a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, is also was one of the top skiers on the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team that took to the slopes at the Olympic venues in Pyeongchang. She competed in the downhill March 10, super-G on March 11, super combined March 13, giant slalom March 14 and slalom March 18.
“Yeah I’m pretty happy with the way everything went,” Kunkel said. “I was a little surprised because I did so well in events that I normally don’t do that well in.”
The top skier for the week was Frances Marie Bochet who won gold in the downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom. Canada’s Mollie Jepsen won the gold in the super combined.
It was Kunkel’s first Paralympic Games, and while she would have loved to bring a medal back home, she had traveled to South Korea with the understanding that these games were more about the experience than the hardware.
‘“It was a really cool experience,” she said. “It was hard not to be nervous when I stepped into the starting gate. You try to clear your mind, but you also want to focus on two or three things that will help you go faster.”
Kunkel said she was thrilled with being part of the team. She may have been a bit disappointed that she fell just a few gates from finishing her strongest event, the slalom.
She plans to chalk that up to experience as she turns her attention to the championships that will open next week, she hopes it will lead her back to the Paralympics in 2022.
Kunkel was the top American in the super-G and the giant slalom at the Paralympics, and is hoping that could lead to a national title this week. She will need a repeat of her performance in South Korea and be able to ski past a strong group of Canadians if she hopes to do that.
The Para Alpine National Championships are combined competition between U.S. and Canada where the top finishers, no matter which country they are from, will be crowned the overall champion.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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