US teammates Mike Shea and Mike Schultz, the Netherlands’ Bibian Mentel-Spee, France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervillon and Great Britain’s Ben Moore were the first World Cup winners in para-snowboard-cross head-to-head on Tuesday (14 January), in Aspen, USA.
The new format joins the addition of banked slalom and the separation of lower-limb impairment classifications as major developments in the sport following its debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Athletes have welcomed the move on social media, including the USA’s Paralympic champion Evan Strong.
“There’s something about blue dye on snow that gets me so excited […] I’m so stoked to see how my sport is evolving,” Strong said on Instagram.
US riders blocked out the podium in the men’s SB-LL2. Sochi silver medallist Mike Shea went head-to-head with newcomer Dustin Fleming, beating him into second place. Keith Gabel won further World Cup points in third.
Mentel-Spee took glory in the women’s equivalent, completing a historic triple by adding victory to her Paralympic gold and win from November’s first banked slalom event.
Mentel-Spee beat Australia’s Joany Badenhorst, returning from injury after crashing out at Sochi 2014. The USA’s Heidi Jo Duce was third, adding to her second place finish from the time-trial on Monday (12 January).
Hernandez-Cervillon just edged American Nicole Roundy in the women’s SB-LL1, after also finishing in first place on Monday. Roundy’s teammate Brenna Huckaby continued her run of podium form in third.
“I came so very close to first. Let's just say the last 10 seconds were very exciting. I'm looking forward to the Canada #WorldCup,” Roundy said on Instagram, referring to the next World Cup in Big White, Canada, starting on Saturday (17 January).
The men’s race was a shoot-out between victor Mike Schultz, taking his second win of the week, and Italy’s Giuseppe Communale. Andre Pereira took Brazil’s first World Cup podium with third.
There was similar success for Great Britain, as Ben Moore took his first career head-to-head win in the men’s upper-limb race against American Jay Gaines. Italian Manuel Pozzerle completed the podium.
The next IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup takes place between 17-19 January in Big White and will feature head-to-head and banked slalom.
Both events will be contested at the upcoming 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, from 23-28 February. Around 80 athletes from 20 countries are set to compete.