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Juneau mono-skier Joe Tompkins returned to his element on Monday and reached the podium for just the third time in a Disabled World Cup race.
Tompkins, who specializes in the speed events of downhill and super-giant slalom (super-G), took third place among mono-skiers in the opening super-G race of a four-race International Paralympic Committee-World Cup for the Disabled ski series this week in Kimberley, British Columbia.
"Oh, yeah, you know the GS (giant slalom) and slalom aren't my forté," Tompkins said in a phone interview Monday.
Last week, during a four-race Disabled World Cup race series in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Tompkins had three finishes in the 15th- to 17th-place ranges and one DNF (did not finish) during the two slalom and two giant slalom races. Tompkins, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1988 auto accident, is one of the largest disabled skiers on the circuit at 6-foot-5, 226 pounds and he's still trying to find his comfort zone for the technical events.
Monday's race was held in eight inches of fresh powder, which covered man-made snow at Kimberley Resort located about 3 1/2 (driving) hours due north of Couer d'Alene, Idaho. Tompkins was the 34th skier to hit the course and had the advantage of early racers packing down some of the loose snow. This is his fourth year skiing at Kimberley, but Tompkins said the course is different every time he skis it.
"It was pretty rolly in Kimberley," Tompkins said. "It was really rolly, and you were getting air where you don't think you're going to get air. I think it helps me because everybody else gets more timid."
Tompkins covered the course in an adjusted time of 1 minute, 23.66 seconds. Tyler Walker of New Hampshire was the top mono-skier in 1:21.52, while Italy's Fabrizio Zardini was second in 1:21.75.
Canadian blind skier Chris Williamson of Toronto (and guide Bobby Taylor) had the fastest overall time in 1:19.63, while standing skier Gerd Schnfelder of Germany won his division in 1:22.27.
It was Tompkins' first bronze medal at a major international event since joining the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team six years ago. He's won two gold medals in Disabled World Cup races, at a December 1999 two-run downhill in Breckenridge, Colo., and at a super-G race last January in Abtenau, Austria.
Tompkins praised the run by Walker, but he said he was worried about mono-skier teammates Kevin Bramble of California and Chris Devlin-Young of New Hampshire, who are usually among the circuit's top performers. But Bramble crashed during his run, and they had to pull Devlin-Young, who was the next starter, off the course so he wouldn't run over Bramble, who got up and finished his race. Devlin-Young got a restart, but ended up skiing off the course and not finishing.
"I thought since Kevin Bramble and Chris Young were out there, I'd really have to get after it," Tompkins said. "I know I made some mistakes today, but without Chris and Kevin that's the difference."
The series continues with another super-G race today, then it takes a day off so a downhill course can be set and skiers can have training runs. Downhill races are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, provided a predicted storm doesn't cancel the events.
"I'm not worried," Tompkins said of the predicted storm. "That's the thing, you can be a weatherman and you can be 95-percent wrong and still have a job."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.