“She is so good and experienced, but the gap between us is getting smaller."
The Netherlands Bibian Mentel and American Mike Shea have won the season’s first IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup on Friday (22 November) at SnowWorld Landgraaf, the Netherlands.
The pair, both competitors in the lower-limb impairment class, repeated their performances from the previous day at the Europa Cup.
Mike Shea is a medal favourite when para-snowboard cross makes its debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in March. He beat rival and teammate Keith Gabel into the top spot with three runs totaling 1:03.08, over four seconds faster than he had managed the day before to secure first place.
“I don’t look too far ahead, I take it day by day. I know I’m favourite but I will have to win first”, the 30-year-old said.
Just five years after taking-up snowboarding himself, Shea commented on the youngsters now entering the sport:
“Snowboarding for disabled athletes is growing really fast. A Dutch kid like Chris Vos is only 15 and progressing so fast it’s almost scaring me.’’
Speaking of the indoor course at SnowWorld, the four-time World Cup Champion from 2012-13 added:
“Very cool, a great experience. This is totally different from the competitions outside.
"Although it feels a little claustrophobic it’s fantastic that they can organise a cross in such a small building.’’
Fin Matti Suur-Harmani was a surprise third place and could be a face to look out for as the circuit next moves to Copper Mountain, USA, in January.
In the women’s race Mentel proved she has little to worry about at this point, keeping American Amy Purdy at a safe distance by finishing 10 seconds clear of her and Dutch-woman Lisa Bunschoten in 1:21.73.
“I’m happy about my victory at the Europa Cup and World Cup. The level of the other contestants is increasing which is good to see,” said Mentel.
Amy Purdy meanwhile was magnanimous in defeat, but took the opportunity to remind friend and closest rival Mentel that she is on her tail:
“She is so good and experienced, but the gap between us is getting smaller.
"I’ve learned more about what I can improve and paid attention to how Bibian does it. That’s what I’m going to focus on when I get home.
"It isn’t frustrating to see Bibian finish first. I look at it as a challenge for Sochi’’, said the 34-year-old.
Snowboarders have three World Cups to go this season ahead of Sochi 2014 in Copper Mountain from 17-19 January, Big White, Canada and Maribor, Slovenia, in addition to the final in La Molina, Spain, the same venue as the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships.