March 8 - Athletes competing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic alpine skiing test event, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Cup finals, faced some challenging conditions as the event began today with the sun shining down on the slopes.
The skiers had to deal with all types of snow – firm, soft, slushy and hard, with the conditions being particularly challenging for the visually impaired competitors.
Nevertheless, Spain's world champion Jon Santacana guided by Miguel Galindo Garces took gold in 1min 22.25sec in the men's visually impaired class, before being followed to the finish line by Slovakian Miroslav Haraus, guided by Maria Zatovicova, who secured silver in 1:22.75, and Canada's Chris Williamson with guide Robin Femy winning bronze in 1:23.05.
"The jumps were the most difficult part," said Galindo after the race.
"Because Jon doesn't see where to start and finish the jump, so it's very difficult for us, but he had a good training."
Early favourite Alexandra Frantseva of Russia picked up gold on her home slope in the women's visually impaired class, guided by Pavel Zabotin, in 1:13.54, with Britain's Jade Etherington being the only other skier to complete the course, finishing in 1:17.32.
It was the 22-year-old's first time racing a downhill with her new guide John Clark, and she looked confident on the jumps, keeping a good distance with her guide.
"Today was my first ever downhill, so this morning I was just trying to get a feel of how different it was to super-G," Etherington said.
"We finished fourth in training, but I was just really happy that we had a good solid run.
"We got silver at my first-ever World Cup, so I'm really, really happy."
In the women's standing, France's Marie Bochet, world champion in the event, had the winning time of 1:31.30 after taking a spill in the morning's training, which she put down to tiredness.
"I didn't finish my training run, so for me the race was a training run," Bochet said.
"For me this is a test event.
"I'm not looking at my results.
"I just want to get to know the race slope and take in the ambiance of Sochi.
"I think it's nice here.
"The snow is a little different to [the rest of] Europe and it's very hot weather."
Following Bochet was Germany's Andrea Rothfuss, who took silver in 1:32.52, and Russia's Inga Medvedeva, who claimed bronze in 1:32.72.
France's Vincent Gauthier-Manuel took gold in the men's standing in 1:22.84, with Russia's 15-year-old Alexey Bugaev winning silver in 1:23.09 and world champion Markus Salcher of Austria picking up the bronze in 1:23.26.
The men's sitting event faced delays as the hot sun bore down on the slope, with several athletes unable to finish the event, but America Tyler Walker tightened up his line after the training run and took a more controlled approach to the jump to win the race in 1:23.62.
"The run went really well," he said.
"It was just a perfect combination of conditions to benefit myself.
"It was soft and bumpy and technical and turning.
"It had a big jump in it and I do well in all of those things.
"I'm one of the smaller guys out there, so I don't do well on the long flat tucking courses, but this was perfect – and it showed."
France's Yohann Taberlet was not far behind, finishing in 1:23.81 and Japan's Takeshi Suzuki took bronze in 1:27.29.
In the women's sitting, Germany's Anna Schaffelhuber was the only skier to finish the race, with a time of 1:33.79.
"It's a tough course, a really difficult course," she said.
"At the end it's really bumpy.
"The first pitch was bad on the training run...but for me it went OK."
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