TWO-time Paralympian Mitchell Gourley (Vic) made one of his most impressive trips down the Rosa Khutor alpine course only to come unstuck right near the finish in his favourite event – the Giant Slalom.
The 22-year-old was fourth fastest after the first run, just 1.44 seconds off the gold medal position and only one-hundredth of a second off bronze, held by teenage Russian sensation Alexey Bugaev.
Bugaev has two collected two gold medals, two silver and bronze from the five events skied at the Sochi Winter Paralympics.
But in the second run, Gourley crashed at the fourth-last gate of the 49 set on the course, to register a DNF (did not finish).
The medals were decided between the three fastest from run one, Vincent Gauthier-Manuel (France) gold; Bugaev (Russia) silver and two-time winner in Sochi already, Markus Salcher (Austria).
“Obviously gutted but in saying that I think I can hold my head high as I went down swinging,’’ Gourley said, who had won Giant Slalom gold at the World Cup in Thredbo last September and in Sestriere in Italy last northern winter.
“You look at the three guys on the podium and they’ve all won a bunch of medals this week and they are all incredible skiers,’’ Gourley said.
“I was 0.01 seconds out of there going in (to final run) and I had to put one down and I did everything to do that. Unfortunately I came up short four gates from the bottom.’’
The other Australian skier in the standing class, Toby Kane (Vic), crashed near the top in the first run. He wasn’t alone as double silver medallist in Sochi and former Austrian able-bodied team skier, Matthias Lanzinger, also crashed in the first run.
Gourley, who was 7th in the Downhill and 5th in the Super Combined, felt his best medal chance was the Giant Slalom (GS).
“It’s been a tough Games. I was close to a medal yesterday, I had a good ski in the Downhill but then some battles with three DNFs,’’ he said, referring to today’s GS, Slalom and Super-G.
“I haven’t seen a DNF all year so it’s a bit tough to do three in one week. It is what it is,’’ he added.
“It’s been four very long years and two very long weeks. But when you’re heading for a Games you know that’s how it is.’’
The GS was the final men’s event of the Sochi Paralympics alpine program. Competition wraps up tomorrow (Sunday) with the women’s Giant Slalom, where three Australians will race: Melissa Perrine (NSW) and Jess Gallagher (Vic) in the vision-impaired class and Tori Pendergast (NSW) in sit-ski class.
Kane is retiring after Sochi. Gourley is not certain he will try for a third Winter Paralympics in 2018 in South Korea.
“No idea. I’m not 100 per cent sure what I’m doing in the future. I’ve said that all along I wasn’t sure what I’d do after this,’’ Gourley said.
“I’ll take a little time away from the sport and have some reflection. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.’’
By APC Media