Kiwi winter Paralympians kick off the 2016 season in Italy
A stellar line-up of world and Paralympic champions will begin a busy two weeks on Friday (15 January), as the first IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup of 2015-16 begins in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
The World Cup opener is closely followed by a second edition in Tarvisio, Italy, from 18-19 January. A further two will take place in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Tignes, France, later in the month.
Some of the world’s biggest name skiers are amongst almost 100 skiers from 20 countries confirmed to travel to both Kranjska Gora and Tarvisio to contest slalom and giant slalom.
Races in Tarvisio will be shown live at Paralympic.org courtesy of Rai Sport at 10am-11.30am and 1pm-2.30pm (CET) on Friday and Saturday (16 January).
In the men’s visually impaired, Spain’s multiple Paralympic and World Championships medallist Jon Santacana Maiztegui with guide Miguel Galindo will face off with Russian world and Paralympic champion Valerii Redkozubov, guided by German Agranovskii.
It will be the first clashes of the pair since Redkozubov claimed Santacana Maiztegui’s slalom world title in 2015.
Canadian giant slalom Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games gold medallist Mac Marcoux and guide brother BJ also make their season debut.
On the women’s side the USA’s Danelle Umstead and husband guide Rob will continue their campaign having won their first World Championships medals in 2015.
Russia’s five time world champion and Sochi 214 slalom winner Alexey Bugaev, 18, will look to defend his status as the leader in the men’s standing field. However Austrian Markus Salcher, a speed specialist, has shown improvements in his technical skill this season with a win in giant slalom over Bugaev at a Europa Cup in Kuhtai, Austria, in December.
France’s slalom world champion Marie Bochet will lock horns with German Paralympic champion Andrea Rothfuss once again in the women’s standing.
However Slovakia’s Petra Smarzova, the USA’s Stephanie Jallen, and Russia’s Maria Papulova could also threaten the podium as world and Paralympic medallists in slalom and giant slalom.
Paralympic slalom champion Takeshi Suzuki will represent Japan in the men’s sitting, against Croatian world title holder Dino Sokolovic.
New Zealand’s Corey Peters, a giant slalom silver medallist from Sochi 2014 and the 2015 Worlds, will take to the European snow for the first time this season. Austria’s Roman Rabl is also one to watch as a Paralympic Games podium finisher in technical races.
In the women’s sitting, Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster has emerged as a threat to her five-time Paralympic champion teammate Anna Schaffelhuber in recent seasons.
Japan’s 18-year-old Momoka Muraoka also finished in the top three in giant slalom at the 2015 World Championships.
The World Cup in Kranjska Gora replaces the edition in Abtenau, Austria, which was cancelled due to lack of snow.
Giant slalom will be contested on Friday, followed by slalom on Saturday.
After Kranjska Gora and Tarvisio, skiers will travel to St. Moritz from 22-23 January for slalom. The first World Cup downhill and super-G races will then take place in Tignes between 25-29 January.
Results will be available at www.ipc-alpineskiing.org and updates and pictures posted to @IPCAlpine and Facebook.com/IPCAlpineSkiing.