France’s Gauthier-Manuel Has Surprise up his Sleeve

Three-time Paralympic medal winner adjusts to new prosthesis on the slopes. 01 Nov 2011 By IPC

“For now, I’m going slower with the new prosthesis than with the old one, but I’m much more myself, so I think I’ll turn out to have the same level or even better than before.”

This is a year of experimentation for France’s three-time Paralympic medal winner in Alpine Skiing, Vincent Gauthier-Manuel.

In preparation for the new skiing season, the World Champion is training hard, but that does not necessarily take him to the slopes: running, cycling, paragliding and golf are all part of his repertoire. As long as he is outside, he is in his element.

He also likes trying out new things, and this season is no exception.

“I have something new, but I don’t know if I should tell you. It will be a surprise,” said Gauthier-Manuel, who was born without a left forearm.

He paused for a moment, before deciding he had nothing to hide.

“I have a new prosthesis,” he declared. “It’s a real novelty for me.”

But it seems that the new arm may take some getting used to.

“For now, I’m going slower with the new prosthesis than with the old one, but I’m much more myself, so I think I’ll turn out to have the same level or even better than before.”

Because there is no World Championships or Winter Paralympic Games this season, Manuel-Gauthier thinks the European and World Cups will be the perfect opportunity to try out this new equipment. But he is not the only one to experiment this winter.

One of his main competitors, Switzerland’s Thomas Pfyl has also decided to try out a new technique which will see him using his paralyzed right arm more when negotiating the slopes.

“Thomas Pfyl performs really well,” Vincent-Gauthier said. “He is a rising star and we’ll have to watch out for him.”

Another rival is Russia’s Alexander Alyabyev, who aged just 21 poses a real threat to Gauthier-Manuel, especially in the years to come and at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

“Alexander is young. That’s scary because he’s younger than me, so he has a bit more potential to improve” said the 25-year-old.

Gauthier-Manuel, who won two silvers and a bronze medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games and claimed the 2011 World Championship title in Super Combined, Slalom and Giant Slalom, admits that after the successes of last season, he is under pressure to perform.

“It’s clear that when you get good results, you’re observed much more by others and that’s a pressure, which adds a little bit to the races. But on the other hand it’s also motivational because if someone is watching you, it’s because you’re one of the best, so it reassures you,” he said.

This strange mix of pressure and reassurance will be most evident when he skis in front of home crowds at European Cup in Tignes in February and Auron in March.

“I’m especially concentrating on to the two stages of the European Cup in France,” he said.

“Tignes has a descent that’s quite demanding. It takes a lot of speed and the most technique.

“It’s not often that there’s an international event in France and I’d like to see how it’s organized and whether there will be many French spectators.”

Though experimenting, for Gauthier-Manuel this season will also be one of moderation, after overworking his body in the last season.

“I will be really careful with my health because I’ve started to have small problems,” he said. “Last year I skied very strongly, but my body wasn’t quite prepared therefore my bones were aligned badly. You have to be balanced with everything to be good in the long term. You can always do well in a season or a race, but lasting the test of time is really the most difficult.”

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