“Unbelievable. I went to the World Champs in 2015 and won silver and bronze so that’s just completed my collection,”
Great Britain’s Millie Knight, France’s Marie Bochet and Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber were the golden girls in downhill on an incredible opening day at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, on Wednesday (25 January).
Under sunny, clear skies Knight took what is believed to be her country’s first ever World Championships gold in the women’s visually impaired with guide Brett Wild. Records are not complete from the early days of the sport but British team officials have said they believe it is their maiden Para alpine skiing title.
The 18-year-old’s win comes after she claimed medals in giant slalom and slalom at the last Worlds.
“Unbelievable. I went to the World Champs in 2015 and won silver and bronze so that’s just completed my collection,” Knight said. “You’ve just got to take each race as it comes, but it’s a really positive start I think for the rest of the week. The conditions were superb, they’re so good. The snow is really firm and really fast.”
Adding to the growing expectations of the teenager in the lead up to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics, Knight finished ahead of Slovakia’s Paralympic champion Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova who sealed silver.
Belgium’s Eleonor Sana was third, guided by Chloe Sana.
In the men’s visually impaired, Mac Marcoux headlined a Canadian medal triple defending his title with guide Jack Leitch.
Spain’s Paralympic gold medallist Jon Santacana Maiztegui returned to the downhill podium with silver having missed out two years ago with guide Miguel Galindo.
Slovakia’s Miroslav Haraus claimed third with guide Maros Hudik.
Paralympic and world champion Bochet returned from a three month injury to win the women’s standing. The Frenchwoman threw her arms in the air with delight when she saw her leading time, after recovering from a broken tibula that put her out of action for the entire Worlds build-up.
“It’s just so cool, maybe amazing!” Bochet said. “I made a good race, I had so much pleasure and a good sensation, good feelings. I am very happy with that. I think it’s better than yesterday [during training] so I have progressed day by day. So it’s very, very cool.”
Bochet is aiming to defend five titles in Tarvisio and is unbeaten at the last two World Championships. The win is her 12th title and she will go for gold again in the super-G on Thursday (26 January).
“I take each day, step by step,” the 22-year-old said. “I just take this day and this medal and tonight I will talk with my coach and we will take about the strategy for the super-G, because the super-G is a very difficult discipline - we don’t have training. We will see tomorrow, but for the moment I’m just happy with the downhill.”
Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss retained her silver medal from the 2015 Worlds. A new face emerged on the podium, as Canada’s Alana Ramsay clinched her first major international medal with bronze.
In the men’s standing, Austria’s Paralympic champion Markus Salcher reclaimed his title from 2013. He finished an impressive 1.62 seconds ahead of Kirk Schornstein who secured his first medal for Canada. Dutch skier Jeffrey Stuut was third, a great result for the 21-year-old on his World Championships debut.
Despite being a two-time Paralympian Schaffelhuber confessed to being nervous before going on to win her first downhill world title. The 23-year-old just edged Austria’s reigning champion Claudia Loesch who finished just 0.23 seconds behind for silver.
“I am so happy because I really, really wanted to win the downhill,” Schaffelhuber said. “That’s the only medal I haven’t yet won in my career so far. I really wanted it. I was so happy when I saw I was in front and I won this thing.”
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka took bronze, her second consecutive top three finish in the downhill at this level.
The USA’s Andrew Kurka stormed to his maiden world title in the men’s sitting. He was victorious ahead of New Zealand’s defending world champion Corey Peters in second, as a series of other big names crashed out.
Austria’s Roman Rabl and Japan’s Taiki Morii, the silver and bronze medallists respectively from 2015, failed to finish the Di Prampero course.
Japan’s Paralympic champion Akira Kano was third.
Full results are available at Tarvisio2017.com.
Super-G will be contested next on Thursday. All races are being shown live, alongside live results, at Tarvisio2017.com.
The competition can also be followed on World Para Alpine Skiing’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaAlpine).