By James Crook

97909388February 20 - Jon Santacana has won the gold medal with his guide Miguel Galindo Garces in the men's visually-impaired downhill at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Championships at La Molina in his native Spain.

Paralympic champion Santacana earned the host nation their first victory at the Championships, recording a time of 1min 25.14sec as silver went to Italy's Alessandro Daldoss and his guide Davide Riva, and Canada's Chris Williamson and guide Robin Femy took bronze.

"For me it wasn't easy as I lost Miguel a lot of times on the way down." said the 32-year-old following his victory.

"After Vancouver we put in a lot of effort and now we have a good feeling together.

"Here in La Molina I thought we could do well."

Galindo Garces added: "Yesterday in the training run we made the best time so we knew we could do the same again.

"In a race anything can happen and it's not easy to finish in good condition.

"It's happened, we have won and it is amazing."

In the women's standing event, France's Marie Bochet overcame arch-rival and defending World Champion Andrea Rothfuss of Germany, beating her to the gold medal with a time of 1:35.62 as Rothfuss had to settle for silver.

Bochet's compatriot Solene Jambaque took bronze for the second successive World Championships, clocking a time of 1:38.52.

Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia, who took three gold medals and a silver at Vancouver 2010, will be the one to beat in Sochi, further proving her credentials as favourite by taking gold with guide Natalia Subrtova.

97870622Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova won gold in the women's downhill visually-impaired

Russia's Alexandra Frantseva and guide Pavel Zabotin took silver, finishing in 1:34.63, as Britain's Kelly Gallagher finished third, with guide Charlotte Evans, in 1:38.86.

Turin 2006 Paralympics downhill champion Laurie Stephens of the United States won gold in the women's sitting as favourite and world number one Claudia Loesch from Austria fell during her run and failed to finish in the medals.

Austrian Markus Salcher, 21, currently ranked as the world's best Paralympic downhill skier, took gold in the men's downhill with a convincing performance, finishing in 1:29.74, well ahead of Swiss Michael Bruegger who took silver in 1:32.51, and compatriot Matthias Lanzinger, winning bronze in 1:33.80.

The day's final event, the men's sitting, saw Germany's Franz Hanfstingl snatch gold from the clutches of American Stephen Lawler after Hanfstingl recorded a time of 1:31.92.

97901637Franz Hanfstingl won gold in the men's sitting on the first day of the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships

"Yesterday in training I didn't make it past the steep slope and missed lots of gates." said the German.

"Today I kept my head screwed on and tried not to make the same mistakes as yesterday."

Lawler had to settle for silver with a time of 1:32.58, narrowly ahead of Yohann Taberlet of France, who won bronze with a time of 1:32.77.

Her Royal Highness Princess Elena of Spain and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven were in attendance as the Championships got off to a flying start, with plenty still in store before the tournament wraps up next Wednesday (February 27).

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