Old rivalries renewed, winning streaks to be extended and new athletes making their debuts will be among the competition highlights as two days of slalom racing in Zagreb, Croatia kicks off the 2018/19 season of the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup.
The ten slalom races set to take place in Zagreb will mark the start of the season after an earlier World Cup stop in Sella Nevea, Italy was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
The event, which begins today (16 January), is just a few days before the start of the World Championships and will be a last-minute test for athletes looking to do their best in the bi-annual competition.
The women’s slalom vision impaired races promise to be one of the best spectacles as old-time rivals Menna Fitzpatrick of Great Britain and Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova go head to head once more.
Fitzpatrick beat Farkasova to top spot in slalom at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games, while Farkasova beat Fitzpatrick in slalom at both the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships and last season’s World Cup.
For Farkasova, a victory in Zagreb will be crucial in the quest to extend her World Cup winning streak. The Slovakian was the overall World Cup winner over the last two seasons and is eager to add a third consecutive title to the list.
Much to prove
The pressure will be on Giacomo Bertagnolli in the men’s vision impaired race. The Italian youngster is the Paralympic champion in slalom, but so far his competition track record lacks depth. Bertagnolli failed to win a medal in the event on home soil at the 2017 World Championships and will want to prove that his success in PyeongChang was not a one-off.
His main competition is likely to come from Canada’s Mac Marcoux, the defending world champion in the event and last season’s overall World Cup winner.
Unlike Bertagnolli who has teamed up with his school friend Fabrizio Casal as a guide from the start, Marcoux tends to change his guides fairly often. Tristin Rodgers will guide Marcoux in Zagreb, following in the footsteps of previous guides Jack Leitch and Marcoux’s brother Billy Joe.
Bertagnolli and Marcoux could also face a challenge from Gemot Morgenfurt. More than 30 years older than the Italian and Canadian skiers, the Austrian veteran has proven to be a dangerous force in slalom, beating Bertagnolli in the World Cup last season.
The men’s standing race will be the most competitive in Zagreb with 12 athletes vying for the top three spots. Austria’s Martin Wuerz and Finland’s Santeri Kiiveri are the frontrunners for the race and look poised to bring a good duel to the slopes.
The event will also feature an ample amount of young talent. Four of the athletes are making their debut at the World Cup, including Germany’s Leander Kress, Iceland’s Hilmar Orvarsson, Norway’s Marcus Nilsson Grasto and USA’s Spencer Wood.
Norway’s newest Paralympic champion, Jesper Pedersen, heads the field in the men’s sitting, while Marie Bochet’s absence means there is a chance for a new face to top the podium in the women’s standing.
You can watch all races from Zagreb live on World Para Alpine Skiing’s website, where live results will also be available.