World champions Claudia Loesch and Mac Marcoux, Paralympic champion Markus Salcher and Millie Knight topped two downhill podiums in one day at the Para alpine skiing World Cup in Innerkrems, Austria, on Thursday (12 January), as the weather forced a changed to the schedule.
Two separate downhill races were due to take place on Thursday and Friday. However, due to the predicted poor conditions, the first speed events of the World Cup season were held within a few hours of each other. Austria’s Loesch put on an impressive display on home snow in the women’s sitting, triumphing over Germany’s Paralympic champion Anna Schaffelhuber who finished second to her rival in both races. The Netherlands’ Linda van Impelen claimed the final podium place in the first downhill.
The USA’s Laurie Stephens was third in the second. New Zealand’s world champion Corey Peters tasted victory on his season debut in the men’s sitting. The USA’s Andrew Kurka was second and Canada’s Kurt Oatway third. However in the second race it was Kurka who claimed the win as Peters did not finish his run. Oatway moved up to second place and Austria’s Roman Rabl was third.
In the men’s visually impaired Canada’s Marcoux was the victor in both editions. The 19 year-old, who will aim to defend his world title in Tarvisio, Italy, from 22 January, showed good form with guide Jack Leitch. Slovakia’s Paralympic silver medallist Miroslav Haraus, guided by Maros Hudik, was second in both races. The USA’s Kevin Burton, a former Nordic skier, claimed his first two speed podiums with guide Chris Tatsuno in third.
British 17-year-old Millie Knight showed her promise by pushing Slovakia’s Paralympic champion Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova into second twice in the women’s visually impaired. Knight, guided by Brett Wild, has already secured wins in technical World Cups this season and was the runner-up in the final downhill rankings last season. Belgium’s Eleonor Sana, and guide Chloe Sana, doubled-up with two third place finishes.
Millie and Brett went into the first speed race of the season high on confidence after a brilliant start to the World Cup races before Christmas. They were currently leading on WC points overall and were excited for the speed as it is there strongest events. The training runs went well with Millie leading after both runs.
Due to high winds the first run had to be started from slightly lower. Millie and Brett had a brilliant first run winning in there category by 2 seconds and beating every other girl on the hill securing Millie’s first 0 point score in downhill.
The second run was moved back to the original start and Millie and Brett managed to take top spot once again with a brilliant second run. Again not only winning the Visually Impaired category but winning overall scoring another 0 points. Millie is now the first ever British ski racer to have 0 points in any discipline. Both Millie and Brett are now looking forward to the two Super G races on Saturday 14th January.
Brett said “we both came into this set of speed races feeling great after a lovely rest period over Christmas. Our first time ever skiing together last year was at the World Cup Finals and we excelled in the speed events. This sets us up wonderfully for the World Championships in Tarviso at the end of month.
“Personally I believe Millie must have a screw loose, I’m nervous going at them speeds and I’ve got perfect vision!”
Millie says “We have had a good few training days prior to today’s race, so going into these speed races I felt very confident. I am so pleased with our results so far. Having come back from a 4 month illness I couldn’t have wished for better results. I feel so safe and confident skiing behind Brett, that I can trust him and know that if he tells me to do something then that’s what I have to do in order to go fast. We fought the whole way down each run, having no regrets, this paid off.”
Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe skied very well managing to finish fourth place in both races. Only missing out on a podium in the second run my 0.15.
In the male category Chris Loyd finished 9th in a very close field only 0.5 seconds off of second place. James Whitley completed his first ever downhill finishing 8th place, showing a very promising future in speed for the 19 year old
Salcher was the second athlete to deliver two wins for Austria as he prepares to try and reclaim his men’s standing world title, which he lost in 2015. But Swiss youngster Robin Cuche, the nephew of skiing legend Didier Cuche, gave the Paralympic gold medallist something to think about. Cuche skied to his first World Cup speed podiums with two second place finishes. Cuche led Austria’s Thomas Grochar into third in both races.
Germany’s Worlds silver medallist Andrea Rothfuss successfully took on the Netherlands’ Anna Jochemsen in the first women’s standing race, pushing her into second. The USA’s Stephanie Jallen was third. In the second race, Canada’s up-and-coming skier Alana Ramsay secured her first World Cup downhill win. Jochemsen was second, this time edging Rothfuss into third.
Due to the schedule changes, the Innerkrems World Cup will now continue on Saturday (14 January) with two super-G races. Competition will conclude on Sunday (15 January) with the super combined.
Live results are available throughout at: https://www.paralympic.org/alpine-skiing/live-results.