Australia’s emerging Para-Alpine athletes have put together some personal best performances at the Europa Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland this week.
“I am quite happy, as it was a very difficult race piste and all of the Australian athletes proved that they belong there,” Development Coach Chris McKnight said.
“The conditions were great – very difficult with terrain and the injected slope but fair. We train mainly at Reiteralm, using the same pistes that the best able body athletes on the World Cup train on, and the conditions for the race were very similar.”
McKnight said that the athletes needed to be smart and use tactics, allowing them to dictate how they ski the course rather than the course dictating their race line.
Nineteen-year-old Jonty O’Callaghan put his tactics to good use to put down two consistent performances in the Men’s Super-G Standing, placing fifth in both the first and second race, just under four seconds behind the race leaders.
O’Callaghan then reached the podium in the Giant Slalom, placing third behind Santeri Kiiveri of Finland and Jordan Broisin of France.
Mark Soyer started out strong, placing second in the first Super-G race of the Cup. The sit-ski athlete from Victoria did not finish the second race and was disqualified from the Giant Slalom, but will take with him the positives from the first race as he continues to improve in the sport.
Also competing in the sitting races was 25-year-old Sam Tait who grabbed fourth place in his first ever Super-G Europa Cup race.
Visually impaired skiers Shaun Pianta and Patrick Jensen took two podium finishes each from the Cup. Pianta and his guide Jeremy O’Sullivan were second in Super-G race 2 as well as the Giant Slalom – recording personal best point scores in both races.
Pianta’s teammate Jensen and his guide Lara Falk shadowed the good results, finishing third in both the Super-G and the Giant Slalom – also posting personal best scores in both races.
The Slalom course proved tough across the board for the Aussies with no athletes finishing the course for a result, something which does not concern McKnight who says it is all part of the sport.
“DNFs are inevitable and a part of racing,” McKnight said “These athletes that are with me are all going for the win and not leaving anything in the start, they all put 100% into their run and they accept the outcome, which can be positive or negative.”
The team are now back in their Austrian training base of Zell am See, which they will use along with other local training venues to ramp up towards technical events at the World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy as well as a busy block of racing Europa Cup events through February.
“Regardless of level there is always room for improvement,” McKnight said.
“We will always take a chance to step back and refocus on the fundamentals to create a strong platform to help achieve a clean running ski.
“I also feel that these athletes will continue to improve by spending more time on these race pistes and learning about their competitors, as familiarity plays a big part in increasing their confidence.”
By Ski & Snowboard Australia
Photo with thanks to Ski & Snowboard Australia