PyeongChang 2018: Emotions run high on spectacular day of action
Mentel-Spee and McKeever claim back to back golds and Italy seal historic win12 Mar 2018
Day three (12 March) of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games crowned an 11-time Paralympic champion early on to guarantee it would be unforgettable. But the events of the afternoon session at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre ensured that emotion would match the sporting excellence.
The first day of the snowboard competition in PyeongChang was held up for almost an hour when one of the start gates malfunctioned. The delay for the final stages of the snowboard-cross heightened the tension for both riders and spectators, and when competition resumed it became a day to remember for Australia, Finland, Spain and Netherlands as they picked up their first medals of these Games.
For the Dutch it was an even more special and emotional afternoon with an all-orange final in the women’s snowboard cross SB-LL2. The Sochi 2014 gold medallist Bibian Mentel-Spee – who missed most of the 2017-18 season due to treatment for cancer - against Lisa Bunschoten. The two crashed not long after the start of the race but Mentel-Spee managed to recover quickly and finish the race in first place.
"I think Lisa gets the credit as well. It was really tight racing up until we crashed and we both could have won. She's so strong nowadays and she’s absolutely the next super champion, so I’m really feeling bad that she hurt herself, but luckily she's OK, said the back-to-back Paralympic champion.
"It was a hectic day. The time qualification was really nice, the course was really nice and firm and I had a good run, [but] I had no idea where I was standing, [if I was] getting over the line first, or [if I had the] best time. "Then it took a while because the gates wouldn't drop. After a while you get tired [but] when it all got back to racing you just have to switch to race mode and luckily it went fine."
Bunschoten suffered a cut to her face and missed the Recognition Ceremony after being taken to hospital. But she and her fellow podium members will receive their medals on Tuesday (13 March).
An emotional Astrid Fina claimed bronze to record Spain’s first medal of the Games.
The wait for the gates had an opposite effect in the other women’s gold medal race. For the USA’s winner Brenna Huckaby it gave her time to rethink her race strategy for the women’s snowboard cross SB-LL1. In the end, in a one-two American finish, she beat Amy Purdy for gold.
"Honestly, I think it helped me. I was able to reset and get my focus and remember to have fun. We were all at the top watching and chatting and just keeping it real.”
Australia’s Simon Patmore gave his country its first gold medal in the Winter Paralympics since Salt Lake City 2002 after he beat Italy’s Manuel Pozzerle in the men’s SB-UL. For Finland, the taste of first gold came in the men’s SB-LL2 with Matti Suur-Hamari beating USA’s Keith Gabel.
Earlier in the day, the Alpensia Biathlon Centre saw Belarus claim its first gold through Sviatlana Sakhanenka in the women’s 15km vision impaired. Norway also celebrated its first medal in the Games, Hakon Olsrud’s bronze in the men’s 20km standing.
Olsrud’s race was won by Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh, who finished more than two minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
There was a repeat of Saturday’s women’s biathlon 6km podium in the women’s cross-country 15km standing. Gold and silver for the Neutral Paralympic Athlete with Ekaterina Rumyantseva and Anna Milenina respectively, and bronze for Ukraine's Liudmyla Liashenko.
For Canada’s Brian McKeever the Monday morning was the kick-off to his fifth Paralympic Winter Games. And it could not have started in a better way. Guided by Graham Nishikawa, McKeever won his 11th Paralympic gold to become the most successful male cross-country skier in Paralympic Games history.
"It's confirmation that we're still competitive even at ripe old age now.
"We look to see what the results are from that and sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not, and then we tweak it again and that's part of the fun. That's what keeps us going all these years. It's not just about chasing another victory, but it's actually seeing if we can work on weaknesses and improve."
In Para ice hockey the semi-final line up was decided. Favourites Canada and USA cruised again in Gangneung. USA took its second consecutive 10-0 victory, this time over Czech Republic.
The comprehensive win also confirmed South Korea as runners-up in Group B, sending the team through to the last four at its home Games.
World champions Canada beat Norway 8-0 to cruise through, before Italy sealed an historic win over Sweden to reach the semi-finals for the first time in Paralympic Winter Games history.
In wheelchair curling it is China who lead the way at the top of the rankings as the only undefeated side in the competition. It has a 5-0 record after winning both its games on Monday, against Finland in the morning session and Switzerland in the afternoon. There were also two wins for Germany and Great Britain as both sides pushed up the rankings to a record of four wins and one loss taking joint second place, alongside hosts Korea.