Lillehammer 2021: Top 10 MomentsA lookback at two memorable weeks of Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard at the first World Para Snow Sports Championships 24 Jan 2022
The Para snow sports have never witnessed anything like the 11 action-packed days at the first-ever combined Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard World Championships.
Iconic snow sports venues built for the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the Birkebeineren Ski and Biathlon Stadium and the Hafjell Ski Resort saw history being made in 87 medal events.
Difficult as it is to pick the Lillehammer 2021 top ten best moments, here they are.
Jesper and Vilde delight home fans
COVID-19 restrictions prevented fans from attending the World Championships but the Norwegian crowd found their way to support the home athletes and they did not disappoint.
The national anthem played five times in Lillehammer, three with Jesper Pedersen in Para alpine skiing and two with Vilde Nilsen in Para Nordic skiing.
Nilsen’s gold in the women’s standing middle distance classic on day one came a day after her 21st birthday and she received her medal from the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon and the Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
As Pedersen said after his triumph in the men’s sitting downhill: “This is maybe for me as big as the Paralympics because it’s at home.”
Lekomtsev leads RPC domination
Vladislav Lekomtsev only visited one place during medal ceremonies at the Birkebeineren Stadium. The RPC skier took seven golds in seven events, more than any other athlete at the World Para Snow Sports Championships.
The first gold in the collection came in the men’s standing middle distance classic race on day one. It was followed by other three victories in Para cross-country skiing, including the open relay on the closing day alongside six-time gold medallist sit-skier Ivan Golubkov.
Lekomtsev also bagged three wins in Para biathlon in the men’s individual standing, middle distance and sprint events.
Para snowboard debuts
Lillehammer 2021 was very special for Para snowboard as the sport was broadcast live for the first time in World Championships history.
It was also the first-time the competition held dual-banked slalom and team events.
USA riders snatched three gold medals in the history-making dual banked slalom finals. Noah Elliott and Mike Shultz staged an all-USA showdown in the men’s SB-LL1 with Elliott taking first place, Brenna Huckaby triumphed in the women’s SB-LL1 and Zach Miller in the men’s SB-LL2.
Canada topped the podium in both the women’s and men’s Para snowboard cross team events in the Hafjell resort. Women’s SB-LL2 riders Lisa Dejong and Sandrine Hamel were the first to celebrate followed by Alex Massie and Tyler Turner.
Three female skiers and one crown
Watch out for the women’s Para alpine skiing standing events at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.
France’s Marie Bochet, RPC’s newcomer Varvara Voronchikhina and Sweden’s young star Ebba Aarsjoe all picked two gold medals each in Lillehammer in the most competitive class on the programme.
Paralympic legend Bochet maintained the tradition to take at least two golds at every major championships and Games since 2011 with giant slalom and downhill titles.
Voronchikhina beat Bochet for super-G and super-combined before the French had to leave the competition due to an injury.
Aarsjoe missed the first week in Lillehammer recovering from COVID but pulled impressive performances taking the slalom and parallel event golds – in all-standing class final against Voronchikhina.
The throne is still vacant but Beijing 2022 will crown the standing queen.
When USA’s Oksana Masters announced she would have to postpone her trip to Norway due to a COVID it looked like the World Championships would miss one of the biggest Para snow sports stars.
But once she tested negative Masters boarded on the plane and was ready for the challenge.
Masters missed the cross-country middle distance race, but arrived in time for the start of the biathlon events. While she struggled with the shooting component, Masters still managed to pick up a silver and a bronze.
When the cross-country long distance final arrived, there was no one who could stop Masters who took her 10th world title. She made it 11 with another gold in the cross-country sprint final.
The golden Aigner twins
Until Lillehammer 2021 twins Barbara and Johannes Aigner were two promising athletes making their World Championships debut representing a family of three vision impaired skiers - older sister Veronika missed the competition due to an injury.
Now the 16-year-old skiers are among the names to beat at the Paralympic Winter Games in March.
Barbara took gold in her first-ever World Championships race in the women’s vision impaired giant slalom. Johannes and guide Matteo Fleischmann won the men’s vision impaired slalom and parallel events, also picking silver in the super-G and giant slalom.
Turner's snowboard journey
The World Championships debut could not have been more special for 32-year-old Canadian rider Tyler Turner.
He is a double-amputee athlete, losing both legs below the knee after a skydiving accident in 2017, and only last year achieved his first World Cup triumph in Para snowboard.
In Norway, Turner picked medals in all three events he competed in, following his bronze in the dual-banked slalom with golds in the snowboard cross and team events.
“This is amazing, and I am so happy to have put it together and make it happen today. I hope I can keep this rolling for the Paralympics,” he said after the snowboard cross win.
Ribera puts Brazil on the map
The Lillehammer 2021 medals table shows some familiar flags and countries that have dominated the Para snow sports for decades. But among the 27 nations on the list there is one that appeared for the first time.
Brazil took its first-ever World Championships medal in winter sports, also a first for South America, with Cristian Ribera in the men’s cross-country skiing sitting sprint final.
The youngest athlete to compete at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games at only 15, Ribera missed the Prince George 2019 Worlds because of an injury. His long-awaited debut came in Lillehammer and he did not disappoint.
Ribera joined the sport in 2015 and most of the year practices on roller skis in his home country. He was less than a second from gold in Lillehammer. If the Brazilian flags appears on the medals standings in Beijing it should be no surprise.
Adaptive Board Chicks
Dutch snowboarder Lisa Bunschoten successfully defended her two world titles in the women’s dual-banked slalom and snowboard cross SB-LL2 in Lillehammer.
But as rewarding as her gold medals, she also saw Spain’s Irati Idiakez make her Worlds debut just three years after she joined an initiative launched by Bunschoten and her compatriot Renske van Beek.
Adaptive Board Chicks is a project to bring more female athletes to the sport, it began in 2019 and had another camp in 2020 just before the COVID outbreak.
“It is amazing, we hope it can inspire more girls to come to the snow and have fun,” Bunschoten said.
The first World Para Snow Sports Championships could not have hopped for better hosts. Lillehammer is a city used to major events and delivered perfect conditions for a historical event - including unprecedented broadcast production from Norwegian channel NRK.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) followed strict COVID-19 protocols and published daily updates about tests and cases on their official website.
For the first time, the competition also offered prize money (170,000 Euro in total) to all medallists in individual events through LOC partners.
Lillehammer set the bar high for future World Para Snow Sports Championships and left plenty of moments to be remember for years to come.
You can relive the best moments and daily highlights from Lillehammer 2021 here.