The last day of technical events at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships delivered plenty of last-minute drama in all three women’s slalom races, making for a memorable finale to the competition in Kranjska Gora.
For German skier Anna-Lena Forster it was even more special as she took her first Worlds title in front of her family in Slovenia.
Women’s sitting - Crashing into the top
Defending champion Anna Schaffelhuber smashed into the inflatable gate as she crossed the finish line. It looked like the result would be good enough for gold when her teammate and Paralympic champion in the event, Anna-Lena Forster, got tangled in one of the final gates.
But with her family and friends cheering her with big flags and posters at the finish, Forster quickly pulled herself together and finished the race.
Looking back at the scoreboard, the German skier was shocked to see that she won.
“It was a little bit slippery and I didn’t ride on my ski properly and then it was like, ‘Oh no, I’m falling! What? There are only three gates to the finish line! What am I doing here?’ Then I thought, ‘Ok, go on, cross the finish line and then you can see what happens’, and it was crazy that I am in front of Anna,” Forster said.
“I thought I would not be on the podium and now I have the title. It’s crazy. It's so nice to have people here with me. It was my big goal for this year and I'm so happy that I made it.
Schaffelhuber finished with a silver, while giant slalom winner Momoka Muraoka was third.
“I had some problems coming off the edges of the ski. I only thought of the orange line and I thought, ‘I have to cross it, I don’t how, but I have to’,” Schaffelhuber said about her crash at the finish line. “I only saw the line and I stretched my arm out on the line and the rest, it did not matter after that.”
Women’s standing - Silver lining
There were tears at the finish line of the women’s standing slalom as Canada’s Frederique Turgeon hunched over with emotion over an unexpected silver medal at her first World Championships and dedicated the medal to her late father.
The past weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for Turgeon. The 19-year-old Canadian skier lost her father a month ago and channeled her grief into skiing.
In Kranjska Gora, she crashed in the first run of the giant slalom, and also seemed to be out of medal contention in the slalom.
Fourth after the first run, Turgeon was jubilant when she looked up at the scoreboard and saw that she shaved off almost 4 seconds in her second run. As her teammate Alana Ramsay and defending world champion Andrea Rothfuss failed to beat her time, Turgeon collapsed by the finish line, overcome with emotion.
“I can’t believe it. I don’t know what I did, it’s just crazy,” Turgeon said after winning the silver.
“With my dad’s passing recently - it’s just been a month - today I was just like, ‘Ok, man, let’s do this for you and for myself. Let’s just get down there.’ I’m obviously very sad he’s not here, but I feel in a way that this medal is for him and I’m very proud of what I did.”
“He was very close to me and he would do everything. He would get up at 2 am in the morning just to see my first run,” she added. “We connected on skiing a lot. I’m very sad he’s not here because he was my biggest fan, but it’s great to win this for him.”
France’s Marie Bochet, who won her second consecutive gold at the 2019 Worlds, also celebrated Turgeon’s achievement.
“I’m very happy for her because she’s a friend and I know she had a very bad past few weeks,” Bochet said. “She made a lot of progress in slalom and in giant slalom and she needed that to get confidence.”
Bochet finished the race with a dominant 10.49-second lead to make up for her last season’s lacklustre performance at the World Cup on the same slope.
“Kranjska Gora, last year, was not very good for me so I want to take my revenge,” Bochet said. “It’s cool for me and for my confidence to race well here.”
Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss finished third, following a disappointing giant slalom where she was unable to finish despite being one of the medal favourites in the event.
Women’s vision impaired - Near upset
Old rivalries were renewed in the women’s slalom race as Great Britain’s Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe faced off against the duo from Slovakia, Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova. The British pair were responsible for taking the only gold, in slalom, that the Slovaks missed at the 2018 Paralympic Games and the stage was set for another face-off.
However, it was not the high-profile rivals who claimed the top spot after the first slalom run, but Australia’s Melissa Perrine.
The Australian skier looked poised to extend Farkasova’s near misses in the event, but she got caught in the gates at the very end of the second run. As the other competitors shouted words of encouragement from the finish line, Perrine hiked up to the ill-fated gate.
“I heard Bobbi screaming at me. I couldn’t hear anything but her,” Perrine said about her desperate attempt to save the race, which she and her guide Bobbi Kelly ultimately finished in third place.
“Bobbi and I are working great together, it’s all there. We just got to put two complete runs together. We executed 95% of today. It was the last 5% that just didn’t get set.”
A more aggressive second run earned the Slovakian multi-medallists another victory, with Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe taking the silver.
“We’ve already won in World Champs the gold in slalom, but of course the most important one from the Paralympics we’re still missing. It’s still our goal, but definitely it feels great being able to win it again at the World Championships,” Farkasova said.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick and Kehoe celebrated getting their groove back before competing at the speed events in Sella Nevea, Italy.
“Although we have won a gold medal at the Paralympic Games, we take it one race at a time. The conditions are different, everyone’s skiing different,” Fitzpatrick said. “And the good news is that we didn’t feel that much pressure going into this race despite winning that gold medal.”
“We’ve felt a a little bit off the boil for the last few races so actually this for us is massive because we’re starting to feel like we’ve got our fast speed back and we’re skiing like we know we can,” Kehoe added.
The World Championships next travels to co-host city Sella Nevea, Italy, where the three speed events will be held from 29 January to 1 February.
You can watch the World Championships live on World Para Alpine Skiing’s website https://www.paralympic.org/alpine-skiing and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paraalpine, where live results are also available.