It was a perfect ending in Pyha, as athletes and spectators raved about the newly introduced team event, which closed the 2019 World Para Snowboard Championships on Sunday.
After the first four-way snowboard-cross competition in a World Championships on Saturday, the Finnish ski resort became the site of more history by holding the first team event in the sport.
Each team was made up of two athletes from different categories racing against each other on the snowboard-cross course.
Unofficial medals were awarded to the women and men’s teams, as the event looks to be added into future competitions.
TEAM BLONDIES FOR THE WIN
The Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten and France’s Cecile Hernandez joined forces to make up Team Euro and celebrated the first women’s victory in the event.
Bunschoten, a double SB-LL2 world champion in Pyha, gave her team a strong start by crossing the finish line first, which signalled Hernandez’s gate to drop and begin her decent.
Hernandez (SB-LL1) completed the job, and was greeted by a hug from Bunschoten at the finish area.
“It was really cool, really fun,” Hernandez said. “We were also excited to race together, and we are the winners, the blonde team.”
Bunschoten chimed in: “Yeah blondies!”
“I think it’s great to improve the sport and it’s great to have an extra race,” the Dutchwoman said. “The other thing is you have to beat all the categories so that was really nice.”
The team event completed a perfect sweep for Bunschoten.
For Hernandez, it helped her leave Pyha 2019 on a high note, as her world title in banked slalom was bittersweet without her main rival Brenna Huckaby from the USA racing.
“On a personal level for me it was a weird Championships because Brenna wasn’t here, she was injured,” Hernandez said. “But I enjoyed my week and finishing with the team event was perfect!”
Canada’s Sandrine Hamel and the USA’s Brittani Coury made up Team North America and took the silver. Team P.R. China, consisting of Lu Jiangli and Pang Qiaorong, were third.
The men’s race was as tight as could be, with Team Australia securing the top of the podium.
In the first run, Ben Tudhope came in first to give Simon Patmore a modest lead.
The crowd became on edge when riders became visible at the finish area. Patmore cleanly rode the last three rollers, with the USA’s Noah Elliott trailing behind. But Elliott – Saturday’s men’s SB-LL1 world champion – could not stick his landing at the final jump and crashed.
He got up quickly, sliding down to at least grab the silver. But France’s Maxime Montaggioni just nipped passed him to give Teams Alps (with Italy’s Jacopo Luchini) the second-place prize.
Elliott and US teammate Zach Miller rounded off the top three.
“Today I came in just to have fun,” said Tudhope after capturing silver in snowboard-cross SB-LL2 and fourth in banked slalom.
His fellow Aussie said: “Everyone else was very keen. As soon as the first gate dropped everyone was like ‘Oh it’s on.’
“We were really loving it and it was a good vibe throughout the day.”
Complete results from Pyha 2019 are available on World Para Snowboard’s website. https://www.paralympic.org/pyha-2019