Dallas impresses in season opener

Shannon Dallas provided the major highlight on an otherwise arduous opening day for Australia’s elite Paralympic skiers at the IPC World Cup event in Spain overnight.

In what is the first major Paralympic alpine event of the year, Dallas led the way for the Australian contingent by still finishing sixth in his Giant Slalom sit-skiing class despite tangling with a gate nearing the end of his second of two runs.

After he negotiated the challenging La Molina layout in a time of 1:10.72 in his first run, Dallas struck trouble four gates from home in his closing run before stopping the clock in 1:13.62.

His total time of 2:24.35 was not enough to threaten Japanese competitors Taiki Morii (2:16.49) and Takeshi Suzuki (2:17.02) who took the top two spots on the podium in front of Switzerland’s Christoph Kunz (2:22.72).

But it was a performance that still delighted Australian Winter Paralympic head coach Steve Graham, given the tough conditions and lack of recent competition.

“Shannon was solid on his first run and he would have made up a few spots until he got caught up four gates from the finish on the second run. Still, it was a good performance.”

“We are testing skis for Shannon too and considering this hill is not normally a good hill for him, his results were really positive.”

Other Australians in action on day one included 2006 Paralympic bronze medallist Toby Kane, Queenslander Marty Mayberry and Victorian duo Cameron Rahles-Rahbula and Mitchell Gourley. All four men competed in the Standing Skier class.

Mayberry failed to post a time after a disappointing early crash but it was a better performance from Rahles-Rahbula (24th position) and Gourley (25th position) who overcame sluggish opening runs to sizzle the second time around.

Rahles-Rahbula was particularly impressive, registering the third fastest time of the day in his second run to announce himself as a genuine contender among the world’s best.

After posting 1:36.42 in round one, the 25-year-old showed no fear and plenty of class by clocking 1:11.65 to end his day. Only eventual winner Gerd Schoenfelder (Germany) and bronze medallist Vincent Gauthier-Manuel (France) managed slicker times during their second outings.

17-year-old Gourley backed up his 1:36.42 opening effort with a highly impressive 1:15.19 to restore his confidence.

Kane, who will also be among Australia’s real medal hopes at the Vancouver Paralympic Games in 2010, placed 10th in the men’s standing skier class to open his 2009 campaign.

Over 100 male and female athletes from 15 different countries are in La Molina for the 2009 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup event competing in three different classes – sitting, standing and visually impaired.

Action continues tonight (Australian time) with more Giant Slalom before the Slalom events are staged on January 14 and 15.

by Tim Mannion
Posted 13/01/2009 04:32 PM

Shannon Dallas skis at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Games (Prezioso)