France’s Vincent Gauthier-Manuel closed out his Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics in style by taking his first gold at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre in the men’s giant slalom standing class on Saturday (15 March). …Â
Gauthier-Manuel, who won bronze in the event four years ago in Vancouver, fended off Russian Alexey Bugaev (2:27.87) with a combined time of 2:25.87 after two runs.
“I was pretty close to falling,” said Gauthier, who had already won silver slalom and bronze in downhill. “But you have to sometimes go close to the edge. I did analyse the course closely in slalom, but then maybe I tried to ski too with too much faith in the first run of the slalom.
“Today I have understood that you need to give it all in the two runs to win.”
After the first run Manuel-Gauthier topped the charts with a time of 1:14.72 while Austria’s Markus Salcher was second with a time of 1:15.95 and Bugaev was third with a time of 1:16.15.
Salcher won bronze with a combined time of 2:28.14.
Nobody was hotter than the 16-year-old Russian, Bugaev, coming into the giant slalom. He won his second gold in as many days on Friday (14 March) by taking the super-combined title a day after winning the men’s standing slalom.
“I knew I had to progress to do better,” Gauthier-Manuel said. “I trained well and it has paid off here at these Games. What is most important, I won a medal. I hope it will attract more people to para-skiing. I hope it will bring a younger generation through.”
One of the most promising members of that “younger generation” – Canadian Mac Marcoux – also saved his best for last in the men’s visually impaired class.
Guided by Robin Femy, the 16-year-old bested Slovakian Jacob Krako by .35 seconds in the final run to win his first gold medal of the Paralympics with a combined time of 2:29.62.
Marcoux, who won bronze in downhill and super-G, won the giant slalom after failing to finish the super-combined.
“I can’t even think right now, I’m so excited,” Marcoux said. “Definitely we didn’t expect to come away with three medals. It has been an amazing experience. I will celebrate with my parents.”
He has also been racing without his usual guide – his brother – who pulled out with a back injury just before the start of the Parlympics.
“We’ve only skied together for two weeks,” Marcoux said of Femy. “We’ve just spent a lot of time together, learning how to trust each other. . Even though I couldn’t ski with my brother, we hung out a bit. He came out to the village every day and we still did the stuff that we normally do.”
Krako, who won gold in super-G, clocked a final time 2:31.66 on Saturday while Russia’s Valerii Redkozubov finished third with a time of 2:33.57.
After the first run of the men’s visually impaired giant slalom, Marcoux led the standings with a time of 1:16.02 while Krako was second with a time of 1:18.41 and Jon Maiztegui Santacana of Spain was third with a time of 1:19.61.
Maiztegui Santacana briefly held first place in the final run with a combined time of 2:34.82 before ultimately falling to fourth after being overtaken by Krako and then finally Marcoux.
“This is a dream come true,” Marcoux said. “It is so surreal, I was nervous at the top. I tried to relax and forget about everything, listen to music, because when you think too much it can mess with your head. It is the best moment of my life. I can’t even explain how amazing this is.”
The giant alpine sitting class closed out the alpine programme on the men’s side with Christoph Kunz of Switzerland (2:32.73) winning gold.
New Zealand’s Peters Corey (2:33.20) took silver and bronze went to Austria Roman Rabl (2:33.31).