Vincent Gauthier-Manuel ready to get going

The alpine skier will carry France’s flag during the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony before he takes to the slopes in the men’s downhill standing. 07 Mar 2014
France's Vincent Gauthier-Manuel skiing slalom race at 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in St Moritz, Switzerland

France's Vincent Gauthier-Manuel came second in the first giant slalom event at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

ⒸMarcus Hartmann
By Justin A. Rice | For the IPC

“I’m very nervous. I just want to see what the end of the story will be.”

Even though France’s Vincent Gauthier-Manuel won the men’s downhill standing gold a year ago at the Sochi 2014 alpine skiing Test Event, he is not counting his medals at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games just yet.

In his mind, it does not even matter that he was a silver medallist in the super-G and the super combined and a bronze medallist in the giant slalom standing events at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics.

“I am never confident but I am happy to be here,” said the five-time world champion. “The first victory is when you are in the Paralympic Games and you are with all your possibility to be fast.

“I did a lot of training (starting) three years ago. Now, the day will arrive.”

The 27-year-old, who was born with his left arm missing and started skiing when he was three, said the snow was great during training runs due to warm temperatures. But he also said the snow is similar to the conditions at the Test Event last year, so he knew what to expect.

“It’s warm,” he said. “We cross our fingers and hope the cold arrives … Maybe on the top it will be colder than the bottom.”

While the snow might be similar to last March, Gauthier-Manuel knows the competition will be much harder in the Paralympics, where unlike the Test Event and the 2013-14 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup, favourites such as Gauthier-Manuel do not always end up on the podium.

Gauthier, the designated flag bearer for the French delegation in Friday’s (7 March) Opening Ceremony, is also prepared to attract much more attention in Sochi this time around. In December, French officials announced they will show 60 hours of live coverage from Sochi 2014 on French television.

And on Wednesday (5 March), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced these Games will have more television broadcast coverage than ever before, with more than 55 countries and territories broadcasting the Games.

“In France, it’s the first time we will have every race on TV,” Gauthier-Manuel said. “It’s the first time for us, and I will try to show the best image of the Paralympics because there is some good action to show to the people.”

He said he also has about 50 friends and family in Sochi supporting him.

“Yes it’s (added) pressure, but I think (it adds) a lot of good energy because everyone is with us for the race,” he said.

Maybe that’s because the pressure cannot make him more nervous than he already is.

“I’m very nervous,” he said. “I just want to see what the end of the story will be.”