“He reminds me a bit of myself when I was the same age. He arrived here like an outsider and he hid his game well.”
Now that snowboard has made its much anticipated debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, alpine skiing returns to top billing at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre on Saturday (14 March).
The men will hit the slopes for the final time in Russia for the giant slalom, with the first runs slated for 9:30 (MSK) and the final runs set for 13:30 (MSK).
Saturday will also mark the return of Markus Salcher to the slopes, five days after the Austrian won gold in the men’s super-G standing. He won gold in the men’s downhill standing class as well in the opening day of competition a week ago.
After winning the downhill in 1:24.35, Salcher said he only celebrated with one beer and no champagne.
“I think I will sleep a lot and maybe watch the girls,” he said after winning the super-G in 1:20.92.
While Salcher is skiing well and will be well rested, he will have to contend with France’s Vincent Gauthier-Manuel and Alexey Bugaev of Russia, who finished first and second at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain, in the giant slalom.
While Gauthier-Manuel won bronze in the event four years ago in Vancouver, Bugaev is as hot as any skier in Sochi this week.
"He impresses me,” Gauthier-Manuel said of Bugaev. “He reminds me a bit of myself when I was the same age. He arrived here like an outsider and he hid his game well.
"Now, I'm going to do everything to beat him in the giant slalom. I already beat him several times in the world cup season in that event."
Bugaev, 16, won his second gold in as many days on Friday by winning the super-combined a day after winning the men's standing slalom.
"Our team works very well together,” Bugaev said. “Our coaches give us the right tasks and everyone does their job. We all help each other and that's why we win.
"I work hard to stay in top shape. I have a great storage of strength because I am young. It helps me feel more free. The young are more free than the old."
In the men’s giant slalom visually impaired class, Valerii Redkozubov is going for his third straight victory for Russia as well.
The 41-year-old who is guided by Evgeny Geroev almost gave up on his Sochi dream while facing several injuries during training for his first Paralympics.
"We had to work through a very tough road,” he said. “There were many injuries, operations, embarrassing runs, losses. I was on the verge of quitting.
"I can't translate it into words. There's a tornado inside of me full of positive emotions. We have worked really hard for this. It was a very long, traumatic road that required much strength and work.”
In order to win his third-straight gold, Redkozubov will have to beat defending champion from Vancouver Jakub Krako of Slovakia and Jon Santacana Maitztegui of Spain, who won the downhill already in Sochi.
In the men's sitting race, Japan’s Takeshi Suzuki and Canada’s Josh Dueck are looking to strike gold for the second time after winning the slalom and the super-combined, respectively.
"This is my first (gold] meda),” said Dueck, 33, who won silver in the downhill sitting event 10 years to the day of losing the use of his legs after he injured his spinal cord while demonstrating a freestyle ski trick.
He then won his gold on Friday.
“I'm speechless, over the moon," he said. "It is the kind of achievement that was missing for me. I don't know what to say, I'm lost for words."