LA MOLINA, SPA. (FEB. 20, 2013) — Sit-skier Kimberly Joines, the 2009 world downhill champion, upheld a spot on the coveted downhill podium by winning silver in Wednesday’s race at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Teammate Chris Williamson wasn’t far behind, capturing bronze on a course that didn’t necessarily favour his style of skiing.
The rest of the Canadian contingent also had a strong showing with three additional top-10 finishes.
“Everything was building from yesterday, when I ended up winning the training run,” Joines said. “I was in a pretty confident space as my skiing has been getting better and better in the past couple of weeks. It definitely feels pretty good getting my mojo back when it comes to the speed.”
Joines, from Rossland, B.C., had a slow start to her season, earning one podium finish in giant slalom at a World Cup race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January. But in the weeks leading up to world championships she steadily gained momentum, and after winning Tuesday’s downhill training run by more than two seconds, was able to take those positive results into Wednesday’s start gate. She finished in one minute, 41.37 seconds, just three-tenths of a second behind the winner, Laurie Stevens of the USA.
“This was a really good race for Kim,” said para-alpine head coach Jean Sébastien Labrie. “She hasn’t been very confident this year yet, but she was able to manage her intensity. For sure we were hoping for first place, but I think we’re all happy where she ended up considering where she was in January in the first World Cup races. It’s a step forward and we’re looking forward to more downhill from her in Sochi (the next World Cup stop).”
The downhill course in La Molina was in “great condition” Labrie said, but a lengthy flat section gave some racers trouble, depending on which category they race in: standing, sitting, or visually impaired. Flatter courses typically favour sit-skiers, as their equipment is heavier and allows them to carry more speed.
“This track is really, really flat for a minute, which in a race that is one minute and forty seconds long, means it has a big effect on the race,” Labrie explained. “So I’m pretty pleased where we ended up considering all this.”
The course bode well for Joines, who said she was skiing extra fast entering the final section.
“I definitely scared myself a bit today coming into the final pitch carrying a lot more speed than I did yesterday. But that’s kind of the point. It’s good to get your adrenaline up like that every once in a while.”
Joines missed the last world championships in 2011 due to injury, so Wednesday’s race was her first opportunity to redeem her 2009 world championship title in downhill.
“It was a little painful to ski just 0.3 seconds off that gold, but I’m not going to be upset to come home with a silver either,” Joines said. “It definitely put me in a good state of mind to be charging in super-G tomorrow.”
Fellow sit-skier Josh Dueck, another former world downhill champion, wasn’t as lucky. He was having a great run and was just one second off the time to beat when he caught an edge and skied out. Dueck posted the fastest time during a section of Tuesday’s training run, and was looking to repeat his gold-medal performance from 2009 in Korea.
Williamson, a visually impaired skier who is a former world super-G champion and has more than 100 IPC World Cup podium finishes, managed to battle his way to bronze in Wednesday’s downhill despite the disadvantages the flatter course gave the visually impaired racers. He finished with a time of 1:27.77.
“I think we skied the best we could. It was a tough downhill for us, but I think we did very well comparatively,” Williamson said. “I’m happy with the result and how I skied. I’m looking forward to hopefully stepping it up tomorrow in a few spots for the super-G.”
The 40-year-old racer, from Toronto, Ont., skis with guide Robin Fémy, from Mont-Tremblant, Que. Williamson made his return to racing this season after recovering for two years from an injury he suffered at the 2011 world championships in Sestriere, Italy. The duo is hoping to medal in every event at La Molina, Williamson said.
“I think today we rose to the challenge and did the best we could. We’ve been improving in every run, so it’s what we can expect and all we can hope for.”
Another racer with a promising run was Braydon Luscombe, of Duncan, B.C. Luscombe, who has one leg, competes in the standing category. Wednesday was his world championship debut and his first-ever downhill race at a World Cup level. He placed ninth (1:34.84).
“I felt that I did nearly as well as I could have for the track that it was,” Luscombe said. “I had a few problem spots but I recovered well. It was a solid race for me. Places in training for me that were problem spots, I felt I nailed pretty good.”
Being at world championships for the first time is an eye-opening experience, he added.
“It’s a pretty neat experience for sure. Going from Nor-Am races to world championships — just the whole crowd, the atmosphere, and the finish area — it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Fellow standing skier, 18-year-old Alexandra Starker from Calgary, Alta., finished seventh (1:44.25), nearly nine seconds off of the top time.
The young Marcoux brothers, 15-year-old Mac and 18-year-old Billy Joe, made their world championship debut Wednesday in their first-ever downhill race. The brothers, from Sault Ste-Marie, Ont., ski in the visually impaired category with Billy Joe guiding. They placed 11th (1:31.94) after being forced to hit the brakes at one point in the race.
“They made a little mistake at one part of the course where Mac was too fast and caught up to BJ. They had to brake a little bit,” Labrie said. “They improve every day. As their first downhill ever, for us it was all about the experience to have them race here. It was very positive for them to learn. I think in a few years they will have great success in downhill.”
Sit-skier Caleb Brousseau, from Terrace, B.C., finished mid-pack in ninth (1:35.07), in what was also his first world championship race.
“It was a good day for us overall,” Labrie said. “I think the guys skied well and aggressively, so we’re pretty pleased with the skiing we saw.”
The Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team will next race on Thursday in super-G, before starting the technical events on Saturday (see revised race schedule below).
FEB. 20, 2013 - LA MOLINA, SPA - IPC ALPINE SKIING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - MEN'S AND LADIES' DOWNHILL
Interview with Kimberly Joines:
Videos courtesy of ParalympicSportTv: http://www.youtube.com/paralympicsporttv
Wednesday, February 20 – Downhill
Thursday, February 21 – Super-G
Saturday, February 23 – Slalom
Monday, February 25 - Super combined
Tuesday, February 26 – Giant slalom
Wednesday, February 27 – Team event
For more information, go to http://www.paralympic.org/Events/LaMolina2013
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