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St. Andrew's grad wins gold at Sochi Paralympics

Jan 01, 2015 01:14PM, Published by Kerigan Butt, Categories: Recreation, News


Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Chris Klebl powers across the finish line in the men's 10-km sitting cross-country race at the Paralympics.



By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

When Chris Klebl, a 1990 graduate of St. Andrew's School, lined up at the start of the 10K race at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics as a member of the Canadian team, he was as about as far off the radar as you could imagine.

The 11-time U.S. National Champion was competing in his third Paralympics and had yet to win a medal. Meanwhile, Russia, the host nation, had already won more than its fair share -- 79 to be exact, with Ukraine coming in a distant second in the medal count with 24. The Russians had even pushed back the 10K race with the expectation of ending the games with a celebration of Russian skier Roman Petushkov’s record-breaking seventh gold medal.

With all of the pomp and circumstance in place for Petushkov's surefire win, the race was run anyway, and Klebl won the gold, seizing the lead at the four-kilometer mark and finishing in a time of 30:52, which was 14 seconds faster than his closest competitor. As Klebl crossed the finish line first, an entire stadium of Russian fans, including Soviet President Vladimir Putin, sat in stunned amazement.  

Courtesy photo Klebl displays his gold medal.

"The Paralympics are once every four years and this is my third,” Klebl told CBC Sports. “I've been doing this for 10 years. It was the last opportunity for the next four years. I'm pretty excited."

Klebl, one of the most decorated athletes in St. Andrew’s history, grew up alpine skiing and snowboarding in Austria. Participating in many other sports, he also competed in running and rowing in high school and at St. Andrew's. A broken wrist caused him to narrowly miss the U.S. Junior National team for rowing.

In 2005, Chris broke his back jumping off a cliff on his snowboard in Colorado. One year later, he joined the American-Para-nordic team and went on to compete at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Turin, Italy, and at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

In six years of racing, Klebil racked up more than a dozen IPC World Cup podiums, and won 11 national titles for the United States, before moving to Canada in 2011, where he has since raced for the Candian team.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.

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