“I wish to climb up on the top of the podium.”
The penultimate Para alpine skiing World Cup of the season gets underway in Hakuba, Japan, on Sunday (5 March), as the world’s best skiers prepare for the season climax in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Live results will be available at World Para Alpine Skiing’s website.
Around 50 athletes from 13 countries have made the journey to Hakuba for giant slalom and super-G. Many will go on to compete at the World Cup Finals from 12 March, which will also act as the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games Test Event.
The men’s sitting features a stacked field, including all three giant slalom medallists from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships.
Dutch 17-year-old Jeroen Kampschreur left January’s Worlds with three titles, including in the giant slalom. The USA’s Andrew Kurka and Austria’s Markus Gfatterhofer also made it onto the podium.
Swiss Paralympic champion Christoph Kunz, New Zealand’s silver medallist Corey Peters and Austria’s bronze medallist Roman Rabl are also ready to race in Hakuba.
Japan are well represented in the super-G with Sochi 2014 Paralympic title holder Akira Kano and silver medallist Taiki Morii.
Morii is aiming high for his home competition: “I wish to climb up on the top of the podium,” he said. “I am not so accustomed to the course, but I will do the best [I can].”
Kunz is another main contender in the super-G as the new world title holder and World Cup leader.
One of Para alpine skiing’s most compelling rivalries will be played out once again in the women’s sitting.
Austria’s Claudia Loesch left Tarvisio, Italy, with World Championships gold in both the giant slalom and super-G. Her double saw her finish ahead of Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber, the Paralympic title holder from both disciplines.
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka, 20, also took two bronze medals. That puts her in a great position to reach the top three again on home snow, despite being disappointed with her performance.
“I believed that I would be able to get better results than last year [2015 Worlds],” Muraoka said. “However, other countries’ athletes also improved themselves much more, and I regretted the gap between us. Therefore, I am thinking what I can do up to PyeongChang now.”
Looking to strengthen his leading status in the men’s super-G standing World Cup rankings is Austria’s world and Paralympic champion Markus Salcher.
He is currently being chased by the Netherlands’ Worlds bronze medallist Jeffrey Stuut, who is just 80 points behind.
Australia’s Mitchell Gourley is the leader in giant slalom, maintaining a slim 16 point lead over the USA’s Thomas Walsh.
Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss is riding high after winning the women’s giant slalom standing world title, halting the run of France’s multiple world champion Marie Bochet.
Rothfuss sits at the top of the World Cup leaderboard and a win could see her seal the crystal globe with one race to spare.
Things are tighter in the super-G and with two races taking place in Hakuba, Rothfuss could see her slim 50 point lead over the Netherlands’ Anna Jochemsen disappear.
Slovakian teammates Marek Kubacka and Jakub Krako will go head-to-head in the men’s giant slalom visually impaired. Paralympic silver medallist Krako, guided by Branislav Brozman, and Kubacka with guide Maria Zatovicova are currently tied at the top of the rankings.
Slovakia will also be a strong presence in the women’s visually impaired. Sochi 2014 giant slalom and super-G world champion Henrieta Farkasova will take on both events with guide Natalia Subrtova.
The USA’s Danelle Umstead, guided by her husband Rob, will try to improve on their third place in the World Cup super-G.
Competition gets underway in Hakuba on Sunday with giant slalom. Two super-G races will follow on Monday and Tuesday (6-7March).
The World Cup Finals and PyeongChang 2018 Test Event will begin with the downhill on 12 March and includes a full programme of technical and speed events.