Sports

32nd Annual Huntsman Cup to Honor Athletes

PARK CITY, Utah. — The National Ability Center will host the 32nd Annual Huntsman cup World Para Alpine Ski Races at Park City Mountain from January 27-29. The Huntsman cup is a qualifying event for adaptive athletes aiming to compete in the 2022 Paralympic games in China. 

The NAC Competition Team has trained for the Huntsman in its traditional fashion but expects the event to look different this year. 

Saylor O'Brien
This will be the fifth Huntsman Cup Saylor O’Brien has competed in. | Photo Courtesy of the National Ability Center

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be a little bit of a smaller field of athletes,” said Erik Leirfallom, NAC competition team coach. “Typically, we have a banquet or some event that we’re not going to be able to have. And our award ceremony will probably be minimal. So we’re just trying to figure out a way to give the athletes out metals and whatnot, but other than that, the race is going to be normal.”

In past years, the Huntsman draws around 50 competing athletes. Without the typical international participants due to Covid-19, that number will be reduced slightly.

NAC athlete Saylor O’Brien said there are few women sit-skiers typically, but this year she’ll be competing against just one or two other athletes. 

“I usually try and not focus on the other competitors,” said Saylor. “It gives me a chance to beat myself.”

Despite the obstacles around Covid-19 and record low snowfall to date, Leirfallom and O’Brien remain optimistic about the season and event.

“Finally, when we were like, ‘it’s happening,’ I think it was a huge relief,” said O’Brien. “Finally, I feel like I can do what I love again.”

The NAC Competition Team has a motto: ‘Suck Less.’ TownLift asked Leirfallom and O’Brien what those words meant to them. 

“It started out as a joke a bunch of years ago. And it just really stuck,” said Leirfallom. “It’s a fun way to put a smile on [athletes’] faces. But know that our goal every day is to go out and be a little bit better whether it be on the snow or as humans.”

“It’s this mentality of just trying to improve yourself little by little every day,” said O’Brien.

To learn about volunteer opportunities, email the NAC volunteer team at [email protected].

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