More than 60 athletes from 15 countries will begin the European para-alpine ski season with two IPC Alpine Skiing Europa Cups, beginning on Monday (15 December) in Pitztal, Austria.
Three days of competition in Pitztal featuring slalom and giant slalom races will be closely followed by another Europa Cup in Kuhtai, Austria, from 19 December, where super-combined events will be added.
In Pitztal, Austria’s new double Paralympic champion Markus Salcher returns on home snow to face Russia’s slalom specialist Alexey Bugaev in the men’s standing classification.
“I'm feeling pretty well and looking forward to the start of the competitions,” 23-year-old Salcher said. “Though it has not been a perfect training period because of the actual lack of snow in the Alps, it's time to get started with the races.
“They will be only a first possibility for me to check how I'm in form”
In Kuhtai, Salcher’s teammate and rival Matthias Lanzinger will be joining the circuit to begin his season, in which he will defend his super-combined world title in Panorama, Canada, from 28 February – 10 March.
The women’s standing events will feature 2013-14 world top 10 Russians Inga Medvedeva and Mariia Papulova, the Netherlands’ Anna Jochemsen and Spain’s Ursula Pueyo Marimon. Medvedeva collected silver in slalom at Sochi 2014.
Austrian super-combined and giant slalom world champion Claudia Loesch will race in both Europa Cups. In Kuhtai her biggest competition will be Japanese sit-skier Momoka Muraoka, who finished in the world top 10 last season in the same events.
The men’s sitting also has Austrian interest with Roman Rabl hoping to continue his form from last season, in which he medalled in all three disciplines in Sochi. Japanese world champion sit-skiers Taiki Morii and Takeshi Suzuki, as well as
Croatian slalom world No. 2 Dino Sokolovic, will also be heading down the hill in Kuhtai.
Meanwhile Russia’s Valerii Redkozubov and guide Evgeny Geroev finished top of the men’s visually impaired slalom rankings in 2013-14 before going onto to win Paralympic gold, as well as sealing victory in the super-combined. Ivan Frantsev and his guide, German Agranovskii, will be looking to challenge their teammates.
Giant slalom world No. 3 Australian Melissa Perrine and guide Andrew Bor head out in the women’s visually impaired in both Pitztal and Kuhtai.
The IPC Alpine Skiing Europa Cup in Pitztal runs from 15-16 December and in Kuhtai from 19-21 December.
The 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships will gather over 130 athletes from 30 countries for the biggest gathering of alpine skiers since Sochi 2014.