Double gold was a perfect start to the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup for Sweden’s Ebba Aarsjoe in her first major competition of the season.
The World Cup kicked off in Veysonnaz, Switzerland on Wednesday (20 January) with two giant slalom races.
The Swedish standing skier, who also competes in able-bodied races, is a relative newcomer to the Para alpine scene, but this did not stop her from beating the two biggest names in her class - the first and second in the overall rankings last season, France’s Marie Bochet and Russia’s Varvara Voronchikhina.
“I am proud and a bit relieved,” Aarsjoe said. “These girls are amazing skiers and most of them have been competing for many years before I even started with FIS. This victory brushed away some weight from my shoulders and has made me confident going into the next race.”
Anna-Lena Forster extended her undefeated streak this season to 11 races with two more wins in Veysonnaz. The German sit skier has been unstoppable since November, winning every Europa Cup race and now also getting a gold start at the World Cup.
Barbara van Bergen was second to Forster in both races. Veysonnaz has become a lucky slope for the Dutch skier who won gold in super G on these slopes in January 2020.
“I just love the diversity of the slope, especially when we enter the second part after the flat part. It makes you constantly adjust to the new curves and rollers, which can be difficult too,” van Bergen said.
“It was great finishing the first World Cup of the season with silver, but it was a safe one, so I know I can do better. And, of course, and especially in our group, sitting ladies, we are only with a small group in Europe, so we miss a lot of our competitors who are not able to travel. Such a shame, but understandable with the COVID situation we are in.”
More gold for Jeroen
The winner also remained unchanged in the men’s sitting class with Jeroen Kampschreur carrying over his success from December’s Europa Cup races into the World Cup.
The Dutch sit skier finished both giant slalom races ahead of his main rival, Jesper Pedersen of Norway who is a Paralympic champion in the discipline, the rising threat from Italy, Rene de Silvestro, and his teammate Niels de Langen.
While success in technical races comes as no surprise to the five-time world champion Kampschreur, it was a more unusual sensation for speed specialist Markus Salcher. The Austrian standing skier took silver in the first giant slalom race, just 1.96 seconds behind the world champion in the discipline, Arthur Bauchet of France.
“It’s good to know that I can compete with Arthur also in GS,” Salcher said. “We worked a lot on the short-turn GS in the pre-season because it’s the basic for being fast in super G and downhill. If you are a good technical skier, it is even better for the speed disciplines. For sure my favourite disciplines are super G and downhill, but I should also be competitive in GS and the season started quite well.”
Bauchet won both giant slalom races, which also saw the return of Switzerland’s Theo Gmur to the World Cup circuit. The Paralympic champion in giant slalom was sidelined for a year due to an ankle injury. He took silver and bronze in Veysonnaz and was the only local athlete to make it to the podium so far.
Comebacks from Paralympic champions were also resisted in the vision impaired classes.
In the men’s race, it was double gold for Giacomo Bertagnolli and his guide Andrea Ravelli. The Italian duo were able to hold off the challenge from Slovakia’s Jakub Krako and his guide Branislav Brozman who missed the 2019-20 World Cup season due to injury.
Austria’s Veronika Aigner and her guide Elisabeth Aigner also won double gold, in the women’s vision impaired races, beating out nine-time Paralympic champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia and last season’s overall Crystal Globe winner Noemi Ristau of Germany.
The World Cup in Veysonnaz continues until Saturday (23) with two slalom races. Live results and full standings are available on the World Para Alpine Skiing website.