Lisa Bunschoten of the Netherlands won her third straight world title as the Para snowboard action kicked off with the history-making dual banked slalom event at the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships.
The competition in Hafjell marked the first time that the dual format was used at a World Championships level and, as the day showed, the new format led to plenty of surprises.
While Bunschoten managed to defend her title from 2019, it was a rocky road for the Dutch rider. She struggled in the qualifications and only managed to advance in third place.
Things looked even more nerve-wracking in the quarterfinal. Bunschoten fell midway through the first run, fumbled to get upright and crossed the finish line just 1.25 seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Nina Sparks, visibly scolding herself for the mistake.
The self-talk seemed to have worked as Bunschoten took down Canadians Sandrine Hamel in the semi-final and Lisa Dejong in the final to claim her third world title, as her family and teammates cheered from the sidelines.
“It’s my second banked slalom World Championships title, but the third in total and I’m so happy,” Bunschoten said. “Yesterday I had a hard day qualifying third and now winning, it feels amazing. I’m super happy.”
The Canadian riders completed the podium, Dejong taking silver and Hamel taking bronze.
France’s Maxime Montaggioni also managed to extend his World Championships record to three straight wins and defend his title from 2019 thanks to a narrow triumph over Italy’s Jacopo Luchini.
Both riders went into the men’s SB-UL final undefeated. Luchini snatched a 0.06-second lead over Montaggioni in the first final run. The Italian was leading again in the second run and looked assured of the victory, but suddenly slipped in the last turns to hand his rival the victory.
“Jacopo is a friend so I wanted to race him in the final and it’s amazing I won,” Montaggioni said.
Montaggioni’s semifinal opponent, Great Britain’s James Barnes-Miller, took the bronze.
HOME OF THE BRAVE
Team USA riders dominated the dual banked slalom at Lillehammer 2021, winning three gold medals in the six medal events.
Noah Elliott and Mike Shultz staged an all-USA showdown in the men’s SB-LL1 final with Elliott claiming a tight win and thus reversing the standings from the 2019 World Championships. There, Schultz was the winner while Elliott took silver.
Canada’s Tyler Turner won the bronze.
USA’s Brenna Huckaby won gold in the women’s SB-LL1 class with a 0.29-second lead over France’s Cecile Hernandez. Para snowboard circuit newcomer Ellen Walther of Switzerland took the bronze.
“I don’t even believe it. I can’t believe that I just won World Championships. I took two seasons off from having a baby,” Huckaby said. “[I have not raced] banked slalom in over two years and it is just incredible. I’m so pumped.”
The team’s rising star Zach Miller capped off USA’s victorious day when he recorded his career’s biggest win to date in the men’s SB-LL2.
The 22-year-old lost his first semi-final run to Great Britain’s Ollie Hill, but as Hill slipped in the second run, Miller’s road to the final was clear. There he went head-to-head with Canada’s Alex Massie and outraced him by 1.49 seconds.
Australia’s Ben Tudhope picked up the bronze.
In the women’s SB-UL race, Monika Kotzian of Poland took the gold with two solid runs against Spain’s Irati Idiakez Lopez.
The Para snowboard races of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships continue with the snowboard cross on Friday, 21 January.
All Lillehammer 2021 events are streamed live on the World Para Snow Sports Facebook page and the Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard websites.
Pictures for editorial purposes are available on Flickr.