The Sochi Chronicles - Alpine Skiing Events
In a follow up to our earlier post on accessibility at Rosa Khutor, Euan’s Guide’s Antonia shares her experiences of some of the Alpine Skiing events in the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.
(NB for explanations of the events check out our previous blog article in which we looked at the four Alpine Skiing disciplines - Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G and the Downhill - and the different classifications for Visually Impaired, Standing and Sit Ski skiers.)
Day 1 - well our Day 1 anyway (Sunday 9th March) - saw us set off for the Men’s Super G. That was after a rather convoluted tour around Rosa Khutor! Whilst the volunteers were super friendly and tried to be as helpful as possible - they didn’t all know where to go to pick up Spectator’s Passes and which bus went to the correct venues.
We finally arrived at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre by way of bus & Gondola & joined the masses in the stands. We had a great view of the slopes and there was massive big screen that showed a close up of all the action and showed an updated leaders board after each run.
The course was set up so that competitors appeared over the brow of the hill to complete their descent and as soon as the racer appeared the crowd went wild!
The speed at which the sit-skiers came down the mountain was just astounding. On the close ups on the big screen you could see the speed & the force put on the skis. As the sit skiers were the last of the three classifications to race the snow was already softening fast and the course became rutted very quickly.
There were several heart wrenching moments when racers crashed out with just 2 gates to go… The thought of completing 90 seconds of racing to crash out just metres from the finish must have just been gutting… Those competitors who didn’t finish the course generally raised an outrigger and thanked the crowd for their support. It was great to see so many supporters who had travelled for such a long way to support their athletes!
At about the half way point Canadian Caleb Brousseau was lying in bronze medal position whilst Taiki Morii and Akira Kano were in Silver & Gold positions respectively. They held on to their lead and the were the eventual victors.
Day 2 - On our second day we weren’t lucky enough to have tickets to any of the events… But the highlight of the day was certainly the medal ceremony for the first ever Winter Paralympics Gold medal on snow for Paralympics GB - congratulations Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans. Being British it was amazing to see the ladies on the podium in Bronze & Gold positions and to see the Union Jack being raised.
Day 3 - And then, Day 3, the last day of our Paralympic escapades… Again, we ventured up to the Alpine Centre - this time we were on our way to watch the combined event which featured another Super G race in the morning followed by Slalom in the afternoon.
The weather was terrible! There was low lying fog and clouds, with light rain and visibility was pretty much zero!
The start of the race was delayed - originally for 90 minutes while the authorities waited to see what the weather was doing - and then the announcement came that the morning’s Super G had been postponed.
But luckily there was enough of a break in the weather - and more importantly some super charged floodlights that enabled the Slalom to go ahead later that day.
Before racing started the organisers played a great video explaining both how the classification worked for visually impaired athletes and some intricacies for Paralympics Alpine Skiing.
It was a bit of a contrast to be told to keep quiet whilst racers were racing in the visually impaired races. This is because the guide and the skier communicate using their voice and their communication devices to ensure that they don’t get distracted by the noise of the crowd. When each racer came across the line however there was suddenly an eruption of well deserved cheering!
Being British it was gutting to see Kelly Gallagher crash out - but equally cheering to see Jade Hetherington gain her third of what was to be 4 medals.
After the Women’s Standing and Women’s Sitting Combined Slalom, it was then the turn of the guys - and Britain’s Mick Brennan was one of the last to go in the Men’s Combined Slalom Sitting. Conditions by that point were truly atrocious - "skiing in pea soup and skiing on porridge” was how we heard it described. We hung around to watch Great Britain’s Mick Brennan take centre stage. After a great run in what can only be described as ‘worse than atrocious’ conditions he completed the Slalom and gained 10th position - a great result!
Overall Sochi 2014 was an amazing experience, the Paralympics had a unique atmosphere that is quite different from any other sporting event I've ever attended. It would be impossible to attend and not feel inspired by the athleticism displayed!
Congratulations to all & looking forward to Pyeongchang 2018!
- The finish line at Rosa Khutor in the mist
- Front and side views of a sit ski
- The medal winners and the flower ceremony of the Men's Super G Sit Ski
- Congratulations to Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans Paralympics GB Gold Medallists
- Austrian and Japanese supporters in the crowd