Top storylines and athletes likely to shine at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in a 100 days' time
03 Nov 2020
By Lena Smirnova | For World Para Snow Sports
In 100 days Norway will welcome almost 400 Para athletes for the Opening Ceremony of a World Championships on a scale that has never been seen before.
For the first time in history, Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard will host their races at the same location as part of the inaugural World Para Snow Sports Championships.
A star-studded field of athletes will descend on the Norwegian co-host ski resorts, Lillehammer and Hafjell, in February to race for 82 sets of medals.
We are celebrating the milestone date by looking at the top storylines expected at the event.
French standing skier Marie Bochet and Dutch sit skier Jeroen Kampschreur managed to complete the 2019 World Para Alpine World Championships with a perfect record, taking five gold medals each.
Lillehammer 2021 will be a test to see if they can defend these titles. And the challenge is bigger than ever.
Kampschreur will face Norway’s Jesper Pedersen, who was not in top form in 2019 following a major illness the previous summer. Pedersen has since made a full recovery and, in March, extended his winning streak of overall Crystal Globes to three in a row.
Bochet, on the other hand, lost her undefeated status in the 2019-20 season when she was surpassed by up-and-coming Chinese skier Zhang Mengqiu and Canada’s Mollie Jepsen. Like Kampschreur, the French star now also faces a tougher battle for top spot.
Expect to see plenty of close finishes at Lillehammer 2021 as long-time rivals who have captivated fans at the World Cups now battle for world titles.
In Para snowboard, three-time world champion Maxime Montaggioni will be fending off an increasingly dangerous Jacopo Luchini. The Italian rider was on track to take his career’s first overall Crystal Globe in the SB-UL class in March, but health regulations around COVID-19 prevented him from taking part in the final races and cost him the coveted trophy.
Teammates and tough rivals Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch of the USA were one-and-two in five Para Nordic races at the world championships two years ago. Masters finished with the upper hand then, but the roles could switch at Lillehammer 2021.
Dutch rider Chris Vos was under a lot of pressure going into the Pyha 2019 World Para Snowboard Championships, having swept gold at the event’s 2015 and 2017 editions.
While his latest campaign ended with a silver and bronze, Vos has been dominant since. The Paralympic medallist and amateur pilot won four World Cup races in the 2019-20 season and claimed all three Crystal Globes in the SB-LL1 category.
Slovakia’s vision impaired skiers Miroslav Haraus and Jakub Krako will also be looking to upgrade their silver and bronze medals to gold.
Both Paralympic champions fell short of top spot at the World Para Alpine World Championships two years ago. Their biggest threat is Italy’s Giacomo Bertagnolli, who switched to a faster guide last season and easily won the overall Crystal Globe.
The host country is a top medal contender in all sports at Lillehammer 2021. In addition to Pedersen’s reign in Para alpine skiing, Norway is expecting to see gold from young Para Nordic sensation Vilde Nilsen. The 19-year-old standing skier won four world titles two years ago and the cross-country Crystal Globe this season.
Her teammate, Birgit Skarstein, is likely to win medals in the women’s sitting races. A Paralympic rowing champion and a national sweetheart following her glittering run in Norway’s Dancing with the Stars in fall 2020, Skarstein is still searching for her first gold in Para Nordic.
While the Norwegian Para snowboard team is lean with only Kristian Moen on the elite roster, the world medallist is well suited to the challenge of vying for a medal in the SB-LL1 class. Moen trains with the national able-bodied team and is eager to triumph on home snow.
Looking ahead with confidence! While the 2020 season was cut short, this only makes cross country star 🇳🇴 Vilde Nilsen more excited for a dazzling 2021 🚀.
With just over a year to go until the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, Lillehammer 2021 promises to offer an action-packed sneak peak at the athletes who could become the next Paralympic champions.
Chinese skiers are at the top of that list in Para alpine skiing. From learning how to ski four years ago to winning four World Cup races last season, standing skier Zhang Mengqiu is one the nation’s biggest hopes for Beijing 2022, with teammates Zhang Wenjing and Liu Sitong also looking strong in the women’s sitting class.
Two young stars are in top contention for medals in Para snowboard. Ben Tudhope, the 20-year-old overall Crystal Globe winner, was outstanding over the past season. He won his first overall Crystal Globe and getting named Australia’s Paralympic Athlete of the Year.
Tudhope’s rival in the SB-LL2 class, Zach Miller, has also shown great progress, winning a World Cup race in dramatic fashion at the start of last season and looking like the rider set to continue USA’s successful record in Para snowboard.