Yesterday, the world celebrated 50 days to go until the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games and today, Australia’s para ski and snowboarders have taken to Lillehammer, Norway for the Para Snow Sports World Championships.
Around 850 athletes from 42 nations will compete across 87 medal events between now and 23 January, with Australia and Team NSWIS well represented across the Para-Alpine Skiing and Snowboard events.
The World Championships is a first of its’ kind, with all para snow sports events taking place in the same host city together. Initially scheduled to take place in February last year, the Worlds was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic and is expected now to be the biggest para-sport event to take place in Norway since the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games.
Initially due to compete last night before poor weather saw racing postponed until tonight, were NSW Institute of Sport athletes Sam Tait and Patrick Jensen. The action of the Men’s Downhill Alpine Skiing is expected to return today and both athletes are expected to compete in all alpine events over the week.
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Also in Lillehammer preparing to race, are fellow NSWIS athletes Josh Hanlon and Mel Perrine – both with eyes set on a 2021 championship in the GS and SL.
PyeongChang 2018 Paralympian Sam, said his preparations for the event haven’t been “smooth sailing” but he is hoping to put that all behind him when he lines up for the Downhill.
“We have been in Europe since November training and doing some competitions to get back into the groove of racing. It has been really good to get back on some European mountains and get some speed training in,” he said.
“My preparation for Lillehammer hasn’t been smooth sailing, I had a crash in Super G training which put me out for one day and then we have had 2 days of Downhill training where I had another crash.
“My body is feeling okay now, but I am just monitoring it ahead of the competition.
“My goal is the podium of course, although this is all leading up to Beijing and I am focusing on getting closer to the leader and just feeling comfortable going fast again.”
Also in Lillehammer is dual Paralympian Bed Tudhope, who has already taken to the slopes to compete in the Men’s Dual Banked Slalom and qualifying for the final in first place – the event which is making its World Championship debut. He will also line up for the Snowboard Cross events.
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Following last year’s postponement, he expressed how he has been really looking forward to competing in Lillehammer around athletes from other disciplines.
“I’m very excited to be in Norway for World Champs,” said Ben.
“As it was postponed for a year, everyone has trained hard and I’m eager to finally get to race at a major competition again. It’ll definitely be intense and exciting racing in both the new dual banked slalom and boardercross events so I can’t wait to show off our sport especially in the lead up to the Games.
“I have had a pretty good start of the season and I want to keep that momentum going strong. I’m going to push my limits to see how far I can take my riding and I’ll be happy if that lands me on the podium because I’ve trained for this moment.
“This is also the first World Championships in para snow sports history where all disciplines of alpine, snowboard and cross country are together, which to me is a massive progressive step. It raises the stakes with everyone here and the atmosphere around feels like an even bigger competition or another Paralympics!
“I’m super happy to get to see the Aussie skiers because I’m very close with them and can’t wait to watch them smash it in their events. It boosts everyone’s spirits before heading to Beijing in under 50 days now.”
Due to the pandemic, this week’s event has been scaled down without crowds in attendance, in a similar approach to Beijing 2022.
However, the 22-year-old said the slack of crowds won’t dampen the vibe and hype surrounding this week’s event as everyone is grateful for the opportunity to compete.
“In the current state the world is in, I’m never disappointed about the scaling back of crowds and ceremonies at World Champs and other events, instead I feel so lucky that the events are still running smoothly and not being cancelled,” he said.
“We have a job to compete and I’m happy we can still do that!
“Lillehammer and the organisers have put together an unreal event, very safe and professional with some of the biggest and best courses I’ve ever seen.”
The Lillehammer 2021 Para Snow Sports World Championships will be streamed live, you can watch the action HERE.
You can also see the full competition schedule, start lists and live results HERE.
Article courtesy of Snow Australia