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Winning start to winter season
Australia’s Paralympic winter squad have braved hard and dry conditions at the 2011 North American shootout in Colorado, collecting four gold medals during the opening two days at their first competition of the season.
Vancouver Paralympian Melissa Perrine continued her fine form from the previous Northern Hemisphere winter, collecting two gold in the women’s vision impaired giant slalom with times of 1:55.86 on day one and 1:58.21 on day two, while fellow Vancouver Paralympian Mitchell Gourley collected gold in the men’s standing event with 1:39.18 on day one and 1:42.61 on day two.
Paralympic bronze medallist Toby Kane finished second to Gourley on both days, posting times of 1:43.15 (almost four seconds behind Gourley) on day one before closing the gap on his fellow Australian with a 1:44.20 (less than two seconds behind) on day two.
“Conditions have been very challenging – the snow is very dry and extremely hard,” said Australian Paralympic Winter Head Coach, Steve Graham.
“Mel is skiing by far the best she has, she has really taken another step forward after last year’s season and Mitch is skiing confidently and relaxed.”
Conditions proved tough for Australia’s development squad with Jono Walsh recording the best results with silver in the men’s vision impaired giant slalom after posting 1:56.54 on day one (almost 10 seconds behind the winner, American Mark Bathum) and 1:57.79 on day two.
However, the hard snow was not as favourable to Australia’s developing sit-skiers, with Victoria Pendercast finishing fourth on day one (2:51.25) and failing to finish the race on day two, despite being 10 seconds ahead of her day one results, and Australia’s Mark Soyer and Stuart Hume finishing fourth (2:00.69) and seventh (2:13.99) respectively.
According to Graham, the competition will be a good learning curve for future competitions for the development squad.
“The course is probably one of the hardest and best we compete on all year in World Cup. It’s been a little too difficult and too early for our development guys but it will stand them in good stead for the future.”
Competition continues with the slalom events before the team breaks for Christmas and resumes the winter season mid-January at the Abtenau IPCAS event in Austria.
By Rebekka Wake