Para snowboarders from the USA and Australia showed why they will be the ones to beat at PyeongChang 2018 after dominating the opening competition of the season at Treble Cone, New Zealand.
47 Para snowboarders from nine countries competed at the World Para Snowboard Southern Hemisphere Cup, providing much needed competition ahead of Saturday's (2 September) World Cup event.
The women were first down the mountain with China's Qiaorong Pang winning the Women’s SB-UL in a time of 52.40 seconds, while the USA's Nicole Roundy took out the Women’s SB-LL1 in an impressive final run of 42.92.
World Championships bronze medallist Joany Badenhorst of Australia showed her class as she led the field in all three runs of the Women’s SB-LL2 with a best time of 37.47. Silver and bronze medals were won by Great Britain's Cassie Cava and US rider Brittani Coury respectively.
US World number one Mike Minor stamped his mark on the competition in the Men’s SB-UL in the first run with the winning time of 34.67. Close behind was Australia's Simon Patmore and Minor’s US team mate James Side.
Team USA’s Noah Elliot made his international debut and held nothing back to win the Men’s SB-LL1 in 35.39 against fellow American Mike Schultz. Bronze went to Daichi Oguri of Japan.
Elliot said, “I just started snowboarding last season. I grew up skate boarding and at 16 years old I got cancer. I decided I wanted to get back into a boarding sport. So I saved up the money, learnt how to walk and moved to Utah to start snowboarding. At the end of my season I went to a national event and it has all moved pretty quickly from there. My goals are to have fun riding and to compete. I was stoked to be asked to come to New Zealand as this my first time out of the States and New Zealand is the best place to go for sure.”
There was more success for the US through Michael Shea, who won all three runs in a best time of 31.56 to win gold. Australian Ben Tudhope took out silver, followed by Japan's Gurimu Narita in bronze medal position.
Hometown boy Carl Murphy missed out on the podium and admitted, “It was tough this morning as conditions were pretty icy. We prepared for it and executed the plan pretty well. I didn’t quite get the result I wanted but we are building for the World Cup so today was more of a training focus than an actual race focus. I’m feeling good going into tomorrow I just need to tidy up a few areas but overall in a good position to take podium.”