PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games alpine skiing champions Marie Bochet and Jereon Kampschreur were in irresistible form, dominating their respective events as a strong field gathered in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the Europa Cup from 13-15 December.
France’s Bochet, already an eight-time Paralympic champion, may have nothing left to prove on the slopes but the standing skier showed that her appetite for success has not dimmed in the slightest. The 24-year-old finished first in all six of her runs in St. Moritz en route to winning a slalom and two giant slalom victories.
Finishing in Bochet’s slipstream is something Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss has got used to, having finished second to the star three times in PyeongChang, and history repeated itself in the second of the giant slalom races. Canada’s Alana Ramsay was the other skier to end up behind Bochet.
Men’s sit skier Niels de Langen can certainly sympathise with both. The Dutchman ended up second to countryman Kampschreur in all three of his races in Switzerland.
De Langen did jump ahead of his teammate in the second run of the first of the giant slalom races but Kampschreur, the PyeongChang 2018 super combined gold medallist, had built such a commanding lead that De Langen was still 3.03 seconds adrift in the final standings.
The German women’s sit skiers proved just as dominant as their Dutch counterparts. Between them compatriots Anna Schaffelhuber and Anna-Lena Forster shared gold and silver in all three races.
Veteran Schaffelhuber, who powered to a clean-sweep of gold medals at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games before taking the first two titles on offer at PyeongChang 2018, relegated Forster to second in both giant slalom races in St. Moritz. Forster, the current Paralympic slalom champion, returned the favour in the slalom.
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka would be forgiven for feeling a little fed up of the sight of the two Germans, having finished third three times.
Elsewhere, competition in both the women’s and men’s vision impaired categories followed a similar pattern, with one skier dominating the two giant slalom races before giving way to a hungry rival.
For the women it was Sochi 2014 super G champion Kelly Gallagher of Great Britain who gave notice of her welcome return to form by claiming back-to-back giant slalom wins. The 33-year-old failed to finish in the top four in any event at PyeongChang but proved far too quick for the rest in Switzerland.
British teammate Menna Fitzpatrick, who became her country’s most decorated winter Paralympian of all time by winning a gold, two silvers and a bronze in South Korea, narrowly lost out to Noemi Ewa Ristau in the slalom. The German took the gold by just 0.02 seconds.
Slovakia’s vision impaired skiers showed their class in PyeongChang earlier this year, winning six gold medals, and little has changed in the nine months since. B1 racer Marek Kubacka stepped up to the plate in St Moritz twice pipping teammate and super combined Paralympic champion Miroslav Haraus in the giant slalom.
Italy’s Giacomo Bertagnolli enjoyed a glorious PyeongChang 2018 himself, winning two golds, a silver and a bronze, and, after being disqualified in the second run of the first giant slalom race, the 19-year-old powered back to form, taking gold in the slalom.
Gmur delights home crowd
The most competitive action of the weekend came in the men’s standing class with three different skiers topping the podium. First up, 18-year-old Aron Lindstroem of Sweden picked up his best result on the international circuit to date, winning the opening giant slalom race.
Home favourite, Switzerland’s Theo Gmur, gave the crowd something to shout about by sweeping to victory in the second giant slalom before four-time PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Arthur Bauchet (FRA) dominated the slalom to win by 6.99 seconds from New Zealand’s Adam Hall.