Downhill Races Electrify Day One of World Championships

16 Jan 2011

The 2011 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships began today with the high powered Downhill race in Sestriere, Italy, giving spectactors and Paralympic Winter Sport fans the ultimate speed experience.

First up on the slope this morning was Australia`s Melissa Perrine, who took silver in the Women`s Visually Impaired race with guide Andrew Bor.

Melissa Perrine said: "It is a big nerve-wracking to be the first one, but it is also a lot of fun too because you get a really clean slope. The preparations for today were good, just working together with my coaches and guide, getting my confidence levels up a bit and it turned out really well. I`m happy with how I skied today."

In the crowd were over a hundred spectators and fans who were cheering on their favourite athletes. One of the groups with a large number of national flags waving and noise makers going was France.

The support did not go unnoticed, especially from Marie Bochet (FRA), who took the silver medal in the Women`s Standing race.

"All of the members on the French team have one or more people who came to cheer us on, which is very good and very important," Bochet said.

Gold medal in the Women`s Standing went to Germany`s Andrea Rothfuss, who raised her arms in victory on the podium when presented with a medal from IPC President Sir Philip Craven.

Canada`s Karolina Wisniewska, who also competed in the Women`s Standing race, said that the slope gave her the perfect conditions to push herself and her performance.

"My preparations were good enough and I have raced this hill before with a lot of success. I think the only thing is that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do equally well or better, so I think that was my challenge for this race," Wisniewska said.

Many athletes who took medals were unsure about their placing immediately following their run, referencing their intuition on how they skied.

"We had two Downhill training courses before this, and I didn`t execute like I wanted to here today, but I finished and we`ll see how the times look," USA`s Alana Nichols said about her performance.

Nichols ended up taking the gold medal in the Women`s Sitting race.

On the men`s side, it was no different. Australia`s Toby Kane, who took fourth place out of 15 skiers in the Men`s Standing, was skeptical about his result following his run.

"It felt good going down, but I just made a mistake at a pretty crucial spot which cost me. The course was really good, but I just didn`t ski it the way I wanted to," Kane said.

In the Men`s Visually Impaired race, Yon Santacana (ESP) took silver with guide Miguel Galindo, and noted that the other skiers were tough to beat.

"The competition is very hard. The French, the Canadians and the Slovakians are especially very strong competitors, and it`s very close between the first and the second finishes, but this is a competition and it`s good."

The gold medal for the Men`s Visually Impaired went to France`s Nicolas Berejny with guide Gregory Nouhaud, who finished 0.19 seconds ahead of Santacana.

In the Men`s Standing, German Gerd Schoenfelder did not disappoint his fans, taking the gold medal with a time of 1:21.84. France`s Vincent Gauthier-Manuel and Switzerland`s Thomas Pfyl took the silver and bronze respectively.

"The slope was a little bit harder than yesterday, but I still had a good run and I`m happy," bronze medal winner Pfyl said on his performance.

In the Men`s Sitting, the top three medal winners were all within one second of each other, with Japan`s Akira Kano taking gold at 1:20.94, following by compatriot Taiki Morii and Dutch Kees-Jan van der Klooster.

Van der Klooster said: "Downhill is the most exciting race. There is a lot of tension before the start because you are at such a high speed and you can crash hard - everybody knows that on top of everything. So you are happy if you reach the finish line."

Competition will continue on Tuesday, 18 January with the Super G and Super Combined races.

Taking place in Sestriere, Italy from 15-23 January 2011, over 130 athletes from 23 countries are competing at the venue which was used during the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. The World Championships are the biggest gathering of Paralympic Winter Sport since the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

The 2011 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere include Downhill, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super-G, Super Combined and Team events.