Adam Hall took back his title, while Dino Sokolovic captured Croatia’s first ever gold at a Winter Paralympics to close a memorable week of men’s alpine skiing on Saturday (17 March).
Men’s slalom races across all categories took over the Jeongseon Alpine Centre. In a Paralympics that has seen young talents become the favourites, the slalom was a chance for veterans like four-time New Zealand Paralympian Hall to return to a familiar spot.
The 30-year-old won the standing category, a title which he first won back at Vancouver 2010.
"I am going to be in shock for some time. Eight years later. It has been a lot of hard work. We had a plan and we stuck to it,” Hall said. "I have had to change my mindset a little bit. I am not a young athlete any more (he is 30). I have had to be a lot smarter and can't train as hard as I used to."
Hall added gold to his bronze in super combined, as well as becoming the 2018 recipient of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award. It was his first medal in eight years after he missed the podium at Sochi 2014.
The second run of the men’s standing was the closest of Saturday’s races, with two-tenths of a second separating the top three.
Reigning world champion and 17-year-old Arthur Bauchet could not match Hall’s combined time of 1:36.11, falling .39 seconds short to come away with silver.
The French skier finished his first Paralympic Games with four silvers.
“It’s just a beautiful experience and (there’s) magic every day, and more and more it’s a very, very, very good moment and I have (no) regrets from these Games. I want to be in four years in (Beijing) because it’s… Aaaaaaagh!" Bauchet said.
“If I got a gold it’s perfect, but silver it is a beautiful colour, so it’s OK. If I can just have silver it’s OK and it’s perfect for me,” Bauchet added.
The USA’s Jamie Stanton has a slim lead after the first run and took home his first major medal with the bronze.
Neutral Paralympic Athlete Aleskei Bugaev was a favourite to medal and was close to clocking the quickest time but straddled a gate towards the end and did not finish his first run. Switzerland’s other top contender Theo Gmur did not race for a fourth gold medal to avoid injury and burnout at his first Paralympic Games.
History for Croatia
Croatia crowned its first Paralympic champion when Sokolovic held on in the men’s sitting category. The 29-year-old was in third place and skied a clean run to push himself to the top for his first major medal.
The USA’s Tyler Walker and Dutch world champion Jeroen Kampschreur still had to go when Sokolovic moved into first place, but the pressure of coming from behind was too much for both skiers. Walker had a slip midway through his second run but managed to continue and was just .73 seconds short of Sokolovic’s time.
Punching his chest before going down his last run, 18-year-old Kampschreur looked poised to smash Sokolovic’s time but came far wide past a gate. Looking back to see if he could still round it, the Dutch skier knew it was too late, and did not finish his run.
That awarded France’s Frederic Francois with the bronze, his third medal at the 2018 Paralympics.
Bertagnolli double delight
The Games were a hugely successful debut for Giacomo Bertagnolli and his guide Fabrizio Casal. The 18-year-old world champion won the men’s vision impaired by over a second, ahead of Slovakia’s Jakub Krako and guide Branislav Brozman. Neutral Paralympic Athlete Valerii Redkozubov with guide Evgeny Geroev completed the podium.
For the Italians, it was their second gold in PyeongChang, along with a silver and bronze.
"I want to tell all the guys who race against me that it's an honour,” said Bertagnolli.
“Three years ago it was easier but every year we get better and they get better. And then it's more fun. I prefer two golds, one silver and a bronze - five golds would be too much because it would mean you have nobody to fight.”
Competition will conclude with women’s slalom on Sunday (18 March).
Every competition as well as the Closing Ceremony can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action are also available.