Canada’s Josh Dueck won silver in the men’s sitting downhill race at the Sochi Paralympics on Saturday, 10 years to the day that he lost the use of his legs.
Dueck, of Kimberley, B.C., finished in a time of one minute, 24.19 seconds, just 0.39 seconds behind gold medallist Akira Kano of Japan in a crash-filled race. Kano’s teammate Takeshi Suzuki took bronze.
"It's fantastic,” Dueck said. "I took some chances trying to find the fastest line down the hill. I am thrilled. Second was awesome. It creates a positive vibe and I'm looking forward to doing the super-G."
On March 8, 2004, Dueck, then a freestyle skier, broke his neck and back when he overshot the landing of a demonstration jump and fell 30 metres, severing his spinal cord.
"Ten years ago today I broke my back and it's a very powerful moment of time,” he said. “Moving forward in life is very important and I'm proud of that."
The 33-year-old Dueck could easily add to his medal haul later on in the Games, as he is also a major contender in the super-G, super combined, and giant slalom. He won a silver at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver and gained international fame when he became the first sit-skier in history to complete a backflip in 2012.
At one brief point, both of Dueck’s teammates were also in medal positions, but Edmonton’s Kurt Oatway and Caleb Brousseau of Terrace, B.C., both finished just off the podium. Oatway was fifth, in a time of 1:25.46, while Brousseau was sixth clocking in at 1:25.62.
Tyler Walker of the U.S. had to be airlifted from the slopes and taken to the hospital after suffering a serious crash during his run. The U.S. Paralympic team has since reported that he is stable and conscious.
Marcoux breaks through
Earlier in the day, Mac Marcoux won Canada’s first Paralympic medal when he took bronze in the men’s visually-impaired downhill competition with guide Robin Fémy.
Marcoux, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., finished in a time of 1:23.02, just ahead of Jakub Krako of Slovakia, who was a little over three tenths behind.
Just 16 years old, Marcoux is the youngest member of Canada’s 2014 Paralympic team. He is normally guided on the course by his brother, Billy Joe, but B.J. pulled out of competition on Wednesday with an injury.
Spain’s Yon Santacana Maiztegui won gold in a time of 1:21.76 , while Miroslav Haraus of Slovakia took silver in 1:22.01.
In the men’s downhill standing category, Austria’s Markus Salcher won gold in a time of 1:24.35, narrowly squeaking by Russia’s Alexey Bugaev for the title. The Russian finished only 0.06 seconds behind. Vincent Gauthier-Manuel of Franze won bronze. Neither Kirk Schornstein of Spruce Grove, Alta., nor Victoria’s Braydon Luscombe finished their runs in the competition.
Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova took the first gold medal of the Paralympics when she won the women’s downhill in the visually-impaired classification. She finished in a time of 1:31.55. Jade Etherington of Great Britain took silver, 2.73 seconds behind, while Russia’s Aleksandra Frantceva won bronze.
France’s Marie Bochet won the women’s standing downhill title in 1:30.72. Russia’s Inga Medvedeva took silver, 1.47 seconds back, while Allison Jones of the United States won bronze.
Anna Schaffelhuber of Germany won gold in the women’s downhill for the sitting classification, finishing in 1:35.55, a mere 0.14 seconds ahead of Alana Nichols of the United States. Nichols’ teammate Laurie Stephens won bronze.
(With files from Paralympic News Service)