Comebacks were the theme of the day during the second giant slalom races at the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup in La Molina, Spain, headed by world champion Jeroen Kampschreur’s revenge win in the men’s sitting.
A third place in the first race on Monday did not sit well with Kampschreur. The double world champion in the discipline came back stronger on Tuesday and left his rivals no chances by winning both runs to take the gold.
It was a different dynamic from race one where the Dutchman had to fight his way up from fifth to third place with a nothing-to-lose second run.
The gold medallist from day one, Taiki Morii of Japan, finished second with Norway’s Jesper Pedersen taking bronze.
“Taiki didn’t surprise me,” 19-year-old Kampschreur said of Morii. “I would call him the Fernando Alonso of sit skiing. He’s like the guy who’s been there all the time and he’s always been a legend so when he finishes on the podium, he never surprises me. It’s like, ‘OK, Taiki, he’s here again, I got to step it up’.
“He’s a really good guy and when I was a kid I really looked up at him.”
World champion Arthur Bochet breezed to victory in the men’s standing race, but it was not an easy road to the podium for the other two medallists.
Switzerland’s Theo Gmur fell to fourth place after the first run but pulled out a sensational second run to take silver.
For bronze medallist Santeri Kiiveri of Finland, it was only the second day of competition since a rollercoaster road of injuries and illnesses took him off the slopes for the majority of the season.
The Finnish skier fractured his arm in an able-bodied World Cup race in November, and then was forced to miss last month’s World Championships after fainting during training.
Kiiveri was cleared to return to skiing ahead of the La Molina World Cup, and after just two days of training he made a sensational breakthrough, winning giant slalom bronze - his first World Cup medal in the discipline.
“I have been running from my home to the doctors the last few months and not been skiing so much,” Kiiveri said. “I was sad that I missed the World Champs but now it’s again good and if I can be on [the] podium here, it’s really good.”
A gold medal and a big lead have become the signature mark of Marie Bochet at this season’s World Cup. The French skier was right on point again on day two as she led runner-up Ally Kunkel of the USA by 9.80 seconds.
Seventeen-year-old Kunkel was thrilled with the silver finish in the women's standing.
“It’s really incredible because this is my first World Cup podium and I haven’t competed in a high-level race since South Korea,” Kunkel said. “It’s super amazing just to be out here competing and even get a podium.”
Japan’s Ammi Hondo wrapped up the podium with a bronze.
With Monday’s men’s vision impaired winner Hyacinthe Deleplace straddling a gate and abandoning the race in the first run, Slovakia’s top VI pairs were quick to fight for the vacated leading spot.
World champions Marek Kubacka and his guide Maria Zatovicova returned to top spot, even though the race challenged all of the B1 skier’s senses.
“It was very difficult for me because the slope is very icy and I don’t like when the snow is as hard as this because the skis are making a lot of noise and then I can’t hear the voice of my guide,” Kubacka said. “I was losing the voice all the time, so yesterday I was searching for the voice all the time and today it was the same, but I was just trying to do the best that I can.”
Kubacka’s teammates Miroslav Haraus and guide Maros Hudik took silver, while the USA’s Kevin Burton and Kurt Grimmelmann were third.
Australia’s Melissa Perrine and Bobbi Kelly won their second straight race in the women’s vision impaired.
With Australia almost 16,000km away from Spain, there was doubt if the pair would be able to compete in La Molina. Their winning results over the season, however, got them the green light for the lengthy trip and the skiers were happy to deliver results.
“Our association put a lot of faith in us and they really listened to what we wanted and kind of recognised that this was really important to Bobbi and I,” Perrine said. “They dug deep and were able to send us over so we really just want to do the Association proud.”
Paralympic champions Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe of Great Britain fell out of medal contention in the first run after Fitzpatrick lost a ski at the top of the course.
Thinking too hard
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka went two-for-two in the women’s sitting, extending her giant slalom winning streak to six races this year. The world champion sailed past the finish line with a winning time of 1:52.89 seconds.
Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster finished 1.54 seconds back to take another silver.
“In slalom it’s easier for me to make the short turns,” said Forster, who is the world champion in the discipline. “In giant slalom I have too much time and I think too much when I go down the course and that’s my biggest problem.”
The USA’s Laurie Stephens won bronze.
The athletes will have a rest day on Wednesday and will return to competition for the third and final giant slalom race on Thursday (14 March). You can watch the La Molina World Cup on the World Para Alpine Skiing website and Facebook page.