New Zealand was in the limelight today at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ when celebrated Paralympian Adam Hall took out the gold in the men’s standing slalom and team mate Corey Peters won silver in the sitting slalom at the IPC Adaptive World Cup slalom at Coronet Peak today.
The event was one of two back-to-back World Cup slaloms being staged at Winter Games NZ and attracted a top field of athletes from around the world chasing qualification points for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
Forty-two men and women competed in the challenging event on the Rocky Gully Race Arena which was divided into three categories – slalom visually impaired, slalom standing and slalom sitting.
The first run took its toll across all the categories with just 26 of the field making it through to the second run.
The men’s slalom standing race was the most hotly contested with 11 athletes vying for the podium. Hall, ranked 7th in the world, stamped his mark in the first run when he clocked a fast time of 44.94 to clearly beat Matt Hallat of Canada, ranked 29 who scored 46.06 to out ski world number five Australia’s Mitchell Gourley in 46.09.
Hall skied confidently in his second run to hold the lead and win in a combined time of 1.29.03. It was a tight finish for second and third with both Hallat and Gourley completing their second run in an equal 44.10. But Hallat had the edge to take silver in 1.30.16, leaving the bronze position to Gourley in 1.30.19.
Hall said he was pleased to be able to win gold in his own backyard at Coronet Peak.
“I’m particularly excited to win the Winter Games NZ title. It is great to have the opportunity to ski at home and it was a world class course. It was bit of a rodeo ride in the first run but the second improved. I still have a lot of work to do heading to Sochi but it’s good to be underway for the season,” he said.
Hallat said the competition was very tough and it was good to be in the results: “These are the guys I’m chasing and it’s a good result for me.”
The slalom sitting race was won by high profile Canadian Josh Dueck, ranked 16 in the world, who won silver at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. He won today’s race in a combined time of 1.42.60 while Peters, who is new to the sport following an accident in 2009, put on a classy performance amongst a strong field of more experienced sitting skiers, to take second place in 1.49.46. Third place went to Kurt Oatway of Canada, ranked 32, in 1.50.07.
Dueck, racing for the first time in New Zealand, paid tribute to the mountain race crew and Winter Games NZ volunteers: “They have made this race happen and I know it’s been difficult and I want to thank them all.”
Peters, who is ranked 37 in the world, is racing on the international circuit but the Winter Games NZ slalom was the first time he had made a top three placing: “It’s the first podium finish for me and I am obviously very happy with the results.”
The men’s visually impaired section was won by Gabriel Juan Gorce Yepes of Spain and his guide JA Ventura Ferrer in 1.44.31. The world number 15 was well clear of the second placed Italian team of Alessandro Daldoss, ranked 17, and his guide Davide Riva in 1.46.15.
The women’s visually impaired title went to number 12 in the world Staci Mannella and guide Kim Seevers of USA in 2.01.11 edging out team mate Danielle Umstead, ranked 8th, and guide Robert Umstead in 2.02.69. Third place went to the world number five, British team of Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell in 2.09.22.
The women’s slalom standing title was won by Melanie Schwartz, ranked 16, who skis on the World Cup circuit and was the torch-bearer for the last Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver. She put on a strong showing to score a combined result of 1.59.79 ahead of Great Britain’s Heather Mills, ranked 28th who clocked 2.09.09 to win the silver. Mills joined the British Development Team in 2010 and has only recently taken up the technical discipline of slalom.
World number four Stephani Victor of the USA was outstanding in both runs in the women’s sitting event to win the title in 1.54.38 ahead of 7th-ranked fellow American Laurie Stephens in 2.01.54.
Victor who has won five Paralympic medals including two golds was excited about putting in a solid performance at the start of the build-up to Sochi: “This is a challenging hill with a lot of terrain which makes you work harder. I felt confident and it’s a good result for the first race of the season.”
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 continues tomorrow (Friday) with the second of two IPC Alpine Slalom World Cups at Coronet Peak, qualifying heats for the FIS Freestyle Skiing Slopestyle World Cup at Cardrona plus semi-finals and medal games at Winter Games NZ’s elite curling tournament in Naseby. The Downtown Sessions festival continues with the Adventure Film Festival presented by Auckland Airport at Reading Cinema, Queenstown and Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka plus two drive-in movies at Remarkables Park, Queenstown and continuing entertainment, live music and medal ceremonies at the Lotto Villages in both towns.