Juneau mono-skier Joe Tompkins left for the hills and slopes of Aspen, Colo., on Tuesday to concentrate on a possible U.S. Paralympics National team slot at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
“I wasn’t expecting to be racing this season,” Tompkins said. “I received an invitation to the competition last week.”
Tompkins, 45, will be competing in the 2014 IPC Alpine Skiing National Championships & NorAm Cup beginning Monday, Feb. 10 and finishing on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Tompkins has accumulated enough career scoring points to be considered for the team, however, he needs to have competed in the 2014 season. Team US believes Tompkins can solidify their medal chances.
“I just need to get some good results in the races to show that I still got it,” Tompkins said. “This hasn’t been the best winter for skiing. I haven’t even free skied, that is the crazy part. Most of it is mental anyway.”
The US team, countries that train in the US and independents looking for a chance will be competing.
The invitation was just that. Tompkins has to foot the bill for the trip and he will be traveling alone with his mono-ski, gear, and back packs.
“I probably won’t be free skiing down there,” Tompkins said. “Even though they have fresh snow. I need to work on my speed skiing.”
Team US will cover racers’ costs going to Sochi. The Paralympics begin 10 days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Tompkins last competed at the Alpine Skiing NorAm competitions in Kimberley, British Columbia in February of 2012.
At the International Paralympics Committee Alpine Skiing Europa Cup in Tignes, France, earlier that season he won a silver medal, competing against more than 60 athletes from 14 countries.
Last year Tompkins competed in charity events at Vail. The U.S. Paralympics team trained in New Zealand last summer but Tompkins had a baseball coaching commitment.
“I would rather coach baseball than train for skiing,” Tompkins said.
The US team also participated in world cup competitions in Tignes through January.
At each world cup event, athletes earn points that help determine world rankings and qualification for Paralympics events. Scoring is based on finishing place, with athletes aiming for as few points as possible. Events are the giant slalom, super combined and downhill. To qualify for world cups and ultimately the Paralympics Winter Games in each discipline, athletes must remain under a certain point threshold.
At Aspen Tompkins will race two Downhill’s, one Super G and one Combined during the Feb.10-13 competition.
The U.S. team that will compete in alpine skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics Winter Games, March 7-16, will be named this week. Tompkins will be a late addition and his selection will depend on his performance over the next 10 days.
If chosen, this would be Tompkins’ fourth Winter Games.
“Sochi would be my last,” Tompkins said. “I would be done.”
Tomkins competed at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City where he finished sixth in the downhill and sixth in the super G.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy he held a 1-second lead before crashing in the downhill.
“That is comparable to having a 12-point lead in a basketball game in the fourth quarter,” Tompkins said. “Yeah, I like to go fast.”
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. his mono-ski seat split in half and he crashed in the downhill.
“That is all you get, one race,” Tompkins said. “If you win you race again. If you are going for number one you race all out and sometimes you crash.”
Tompkins is rated 22nd in the world for Men’s Downhill Sitting (5th in the US) and 40th in the Super-G Sitting (7th US).
“It is a bit different this year,” Tompkins said. “The closer I get to the slopes the more excited I get. I guess I don’t want to get overexcited and then get shot down. Kind of like asking a girl out… you get all excited, you want to ask her out but you don’t want to get shot down. If I do good here, I will be going to Sochi.”