Austrian skiers celebrated two golds and one bronze on the final day of World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup competition in La Molina, Spain, with Martin Wuerz and Markus Gfatterhofer marking their best results of the season.
“It’s a real surprise because today I didn’t think that it is possible to win the race, but now I’m very happy about it,” Wuerz said after winning the men’s standing slalom.
After world champion Arthur Bauchet fell in the first run and another favourite Theo Gmur decided not to race, Wuerz was one of the many to throw his bid in for a podium finish.
Managing third place after the first run and moving up to the leader’s position after his second, Wuerz watched nervously from the finish line as Run 1 leader Aron Lindstroem made his way down the slope.
But the Swedish teenager mistakenly swerved to the side, which ultimately dropped him to third place and handed Wuerz his first gold of the season.
“As I watched Aron, I saw that he had a big mistake,” Wuerz said. “My second run wasn’t so good and now because Lindstroem had a big mistake I had the chance to beat him, but it was really difficult and it’s a surprise to be in first place.”
The USA’s Thomas Walsh came second.
Austria’s second victory came in the women’s vision impaired race where sisters Veronika and Elisabeth Aigner took their fourth win in slalom this season.
The sisters swooped to the finish line in matching leopard scarves made by Elisabeth. Australia’s Melissa Perrine and guide Bobbi Kelly were second.
“Today’s feeling better because the course was not so easy but the snow is very soft and Ronnie liked it,” Elisabeth Aigner said. “Ronnie doesn’t like when the snow is very hard and she has many problems, so soft snow is better for her.”
Great Britain’s Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jennifer Kehoe wrapped up the podium in third.
The soft snow was a less welcome course feature for Dutch sit skier Jeroen Kampschreur. As temperatures on the course went up to 19 degrees Celsius, the world champion found himself searching for shade and his Top Gun-style sunglasses.
“I’m North European. I can’t handle the really cold and the really hot. Just give me a little snow and not so much sun because I had a little bit of a headache up there,” Kampschreur said.
Skiing with more caution than usual because of a DNF in Friday’s race, Kampschreur finished the race just 0.20 seconds ahead of the unexpected runner-up from Austria, Markus Gfatterhofer.
Unlike Kampschreur, Gfatterhofer has been eagerly taking in the warm weather. He won his first World Cup medal, a bronze, in the first slalom race in La Molina, and followed that up with a winning second run and overall silver in the closing race.
“The Spanish sun is good for me. I like it!” Gfatterhofer said.
“Normally I always have problems with the second run. I get too nervous, but now I can handle it and I get more confident,” he added.
Poland’s Igor Sikorski took bronze.
France’s vision impaired skier Thomas Civade and his guide Kerwan Larmet hit a patch of bad luck when Civade pushed out of the starting gate in the first run and discovered that his headset had stopped working.
But the French teenager was determined not to let anything ruin his medal chances. The headsets forgotten, the duo flew down the slope relying only on Civade’s limited sight of Larmet’s bright orange jacket and made it to the finish line in second place.
“He turned around a lot to see me behind because he could not hear me,” Civade said. “He couldn’t know where I was so he turned a lot to see me and it worked.”
Civade and Larmet held on to second place in run two, marking the best result in their debut World Cup season.
World silver medallist Miroslav Haraus and guide Maros Hudik of Slovakia won gold, with another French pair Hyacinthe Deleplace and guide Maxime Jourdan taking the bronze.
“It’s my first year in the World Cup and Miroslav has a lot of experience. To be just seconds behind him is very, very good for me,” Civade said.
Two bronze medals in the slalom races in La Molina were an extra bonus for an emotional Alana Ramsay who made her return to competition this week after a mentally shattering crash in downhill training at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships.
“I’m building my confidence up again. Just to be out here, it’s special and I’m really happy that I was able to do that,” said Ramsay.
France’s Marie Bochet took her second straight win in slalom to inch closer to the current leader in the overall slalom ranking, Canada’s Frederique Turgeon, who finished with silver.
Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster remains undefeated in the women’s sitting slalom this year. The world champion wrapped up her races in La Molina with a second victory in the discipline and a dominant lead over silver medallist Momoka Muraoka of Japan.
“The first run was very cool. I had the feeling like in training and it felt good,” Forster said. “The second run was very difficult. The course wasn’t so easy and it was not so fun, but it’s OK.”
The USA’s Laurie Stephens grabbed her fifth straight bronze at the competition.
Full results from La Molina are available on World Para Alpine Skiing’s website.