World champion Maxime Montaggioni had to wait eight years to make his Paralympic debut which ended in a disappointing 10th place in the snowboard cross on Monday. Five days later, the French rider made his dream taking the men’s banked slalom SB-UL gold medal at Beijing 2022.
"I can't believe it. It's incredible. I knew that I could go for a medal but a gold medal is incredible,” said Montaggioni, who missed PyeongChang 2018 due to a knee injury. "The Chinese are very strong, so I didn't expect to be first, especially after training where I was second or third. So I knew that it would be very hard to go for this medal.”
The 32-year-old finished the first run in second place 0.01 behind China’s Lijia Ji. But his second was the fastest among the 34 runs in his class at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou.
"At the gate, I had nothing to lose. It was 0.01 and I couldn't think that I will lose [by so little],” he said about what was going through his mind. "I had to do everything I could to leave the competition with no regrets. So I was free and strong, and it paid off. So for me it was the perfect situation."
The snowboard cross SB-UL winner, Ji finished with the silver medal this time followed by his compatriot Yonggang Zhu – who repeated his result from the snowboard cross race.
SUCCESS FOR THE HOSTS
USA’ Brenna Huckaby was the winner of the opening event of the day in the women’s banked slalom SB-LL2. She beat China’s Yanhong Geng by 0.10 and then watched as run 1 leader, Nianjia Hu of China, dropped to fourth place in her second run.
Another Chinese rider, Tiantian Li, took the bronze medal.
“The thing is, they’re fast, and I also know that I can be fast, and so I was like if I can just ride my snowboard like I know how to do, I can be in the running,” Huckaby said about her local opponents. “I still can’t believe I won because those girls are freaking fast.”
The host nation still had a lot to celebrate in the final day of Para snowboard events at Beijing 2022 as Chinese riders won the men’s banked slalom SB-LL1 and SB-LL2.
Leader after run 1, Zhongwei Wu beat his own time on run 2 to add the SB-LL1 gold to his snowboard cross bronze.
“I was not satisfied with the first run, but for second run, I showed all I had. [Snowboarding] is like my life," he said.
Dutch rider Chris Vos took his career’s second Paralympic medal finishing with silver. The snowboard cross gold medallist, Canada’s Tyler Turner bagged the bronze.
FINAL MEDAL STANDINGS
Qi Sun gave China another gold medal in the men’s SB-LL2 event. His run 1 was not matched by any of the other 24 riders in action.
The local star showed a big relief with his result after finishing fourth in the snowboard cross final on Monday.
“I did it. I didn't embarrass China,” Sun said.
“I would like to give my first run 100 points. In the second run, because I saw the result of previous athletes and I know what I am doing, I just enjoyed it.”
Now a Paralympic champion, he sees a bright future ahead.
“The medal is like a key starting the next chapter of my life. It encourages me to go forward, unafraid of difficulties. Because I did it this time, I believe I can do it next time,” added the Chinese rider.
The host nation topped the Para snowboard medals table with three golds, three silver and four bronze medals. France finished second with two victories followed by USA with one gold, two silver and one bronze.
Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain were the other countries to pick medals at the Genting Snow Park.
Complete results and all medallists can be found on the Beijing 2022 website.