“I put two consistent runs together today which for me has sometimes been a bit of a challenge in the past”
Australian Paralympic alpine skier Mitchell Gourley has won gold in the giant slalom on day one of the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Thredbo, Australia.
In a fitting start to the first International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup ever hosted in Australia, Gourley was the fastest across the line in both giant slalom runs in the men’s standing class to win himself an historic gold medal.
Having maintained solid form since the start of the World Cup season in New Zealand where he collected three silvers and a bronze medal, the Victorian posted a combined time of 1:40.33, 4.54 seconds ahead of American duo James Stanton and Jonathan Lujan in second and third place respectively.
“I put two consistent runs together today which for me has sometimes been a bit of a challenge in the past,” said Gourley.
“Finishing is a good habit to get into and finishing consistently. I think I’ve got more to give than that but today was good. I did what I had to do in some adverse conditions and I’m really happy with the result.”
Fellow Australian Jonty O’Callaghan claimed fourth position while Vancouver dual bronze medallist Cameron Rahles-Rahbula finished in fifth after heavily knocking a gate in his first run which seriously hampered his speed.
With temperatures reaching 12 degrees in Thredbo today, races were forced to begin two hours earlier to make the most of the colder morning temperatures. But as the mercury continued to climb, snow conditions in the second run softened considerably with nine competitors, including four Australians, failing to meet the challenge.
In the women’s vision impaired class, Vancouver Paralympian Melissa Perrine fell at the fourth gate to rule herself out of contention, while fellow Australian vision impaired skier Jessica Gallagher finished in seventh place with new guide Christian Geiger.
“Our second run was a lot better. We made a few big mistakes in the first run which cost us dearly,” said Gallagher.
“Christian and I haven’t been working together very long so we are still learning. We’re improving all the time and I thought we made a lot of improvements in the second run so that was great.”
Australia’s sit-skiers also found the going tough on the second run with Victoria Pendergast, Mark Soyer and Stuart Hume unable to fight the soft snow to finish the race. Jason Sauer was the sole Australian sit-skier to complete the course in seventh position, with conditions predicted to stay the same for the remainder of the week.
“It is warm and the snow is soft so the conditions are tough for everyone,” said Australian Head Coach, and today’s course setter, Steve Graham.
“I would’ve liked to have seen Melissa and Tori finish both runs as they are looking for World Cup qualification. Competing as a full team at the remaining World Cups overseas this season is crucial to building the team ahead of Sochi so hopefully tomorrow they do better,” said Graham.
“Both girls are capable; it’s just a matter of skiing to these warmer conditions.”
Giant slalom racing continues tomorrow (3 September) with slalom racing taking place on Wednesday (4 September) and Thursday (5 September).