Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom Standing – Run 2 – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 10, 2022. Santeri Kiiveri of Finland in action. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (GONZALO FUENTES/)
Finland’s Santeri Kiiveri is emerging as one of the world’s top Para ski racers speeding to his country’s first-ever Paralympic Alpine skiing gold medal in the men’s giant slalom standing event.
It is the second medal for the 21-year-old Finnish racer, who has nerve damage in his shoulder and competes with an impaired range of motion, as he added to his super combined silver from previous days at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Center. Kiiveri’s two-run winning time was 1:55.40.
“The giant slalom has always been really good for me, but I haven’t been able to make good runs in the races and now everything came together,” Kiiveri said after Thursday’s gold medal winning performance.
Kiiveri said he didn’t feel any pressure at the start, having already attained one medal at the Games.
“After the first medal, I decided now I would just enjoy and go full gas and that paid off. One medal was my goal here. I was focusing on another good run and that’s it,” said the Finn.
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Super Combined Standing – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 7, 2022. Santeri Kiiveri of Finland reacts after his run. (ALY SONG/)
Finland’s Para Alpine squad in Beijing is comprised of just Kiiveri and one sit skier Maiju Laurila. Kiiveri hopes his accomplishments will boost awareness for Para skiing in the Scandinavian country.
“Of course, I hope it means a lot and we will find more skiers in the future,” Kiivera said. “I hope that (his gold medal) has encouraged some young disabled skiers to start skiing.”
Thomas Walsh of the United States, who was featured on the cover of the iconic publication Sports Illustrated and overcame a recent crash and concussion took silver, just .04 seconds behind Kiiveri, while Frenchman Arthur Bauchet rounded out the podium.
Not wanting his Scandinavian neighbor to receive all of Thursday’s headlines, Norwegian Jesper Pedersen asserted his dominance, winning his third gold medal at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games. He defended his PyeongChang 2018 title in the giant slalom sitting event, posting a two-run time of 1:54.20.
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom Sitting – Run 2 – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 10, 2022. Jesper Pedersen of Norway in action. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (GONZALO FUENTES/)
Pedersen has also been victorious in the super-G and super combined in Beijing.
“I just have to try to look at every opportunity as a new opportunity and try to fight for gold,” Pedersen said. “Of course, I’ve had a lot of gold by now, but I always want to have more.
“I am kind of the most consistent skier on the circuit,” Pedersen said, not afraid to speak his mind and tell it like it is. “We’ve just trained a lot and probably have the most days on skis on the circuit. And we have a glacier in Norway that we are on the whole summer.”
Pedersen has become one of the world’s best Para racers having spent considerable time training with Norwegian able-bodied Alpine greats Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud.
Italian Rene de Silvestro, from San Vito di Cadore, a town adjacent to 2026 Parlalympic host city of Cortina d’Ampezzo took silver, while Chinese Liang Zilu collected bronze.
Enrique Plantey finished fourth, achieving the best result ever by an Argentine Winter Olympian or Paralympian.
Sixteen-year-old Austrian Johannes Aigner may be the youngest star emerging at the Games. Aigner, guided by Matteo Fleischmann, raced to his second gold medal in the giant slalom vision impaired event on Thursday. It was also his fourth medal in four events at Beijing 2022.
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom Vision Impaired – Run 2 – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 10, 2022. Johannes Aigner of Austria in action. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra (PETER CZIBORRA/)
“It’s just unbelievable because we already have gold, silver and bronze, and it’s just the gold that we wanted (in the giant slalom),” Aigner said.
Italian Giacomo Bertagnolli and guide Andrea Ravelli attained silver, while Slovakia’s Miroslav Haraus, guided by Maros Hudik, claimed bronze.
The 16-year-old Austrian sensation also won two gold medals and two silver medals at the recent World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway. Aigner’s idol: Austrian ski legend and eight-time overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher.
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom Vision Impaired – Run 2 – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 10, 2022. Giacomo Bertagnolli of Italy and guide Andrea Ravelli of Italy in action. REUTERS/Aly Song (ALY SONG/)
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) corporate sponsors and partners are as visible and interactive as ever, as the Paralympics continue to evolve and warrant mainstream sports coverage.
On Thursday, Allianz Italy congratulated Italian Para skiers Giacomo Bertagnolli via Facebook and social media outlets.
“Together, with all of Italy, we celebrate the gold medal in super combined and the silver medal in the super-G vision impaired category. Thanks to Giacomo Bertagnolli and Andrea Ravelli guiding him and showing us once again that determination can make us reach any goal,” the social media post read.
Waddell offers insight on Para Skiing development
Four-time Paralympic Hall-of-Famer Chris Waddell charges down the course (Waddell)
American Chris Waddell knows a thing or two about going fast down a mountain at the Paralympics. The retired four-time Winter Paralympian sped to 12 medals during his illustrious career, including winning four golds at Lillehammer 1994.
Waddell, a studio host and analyst for NBC Sports, discussed the constant evolution of the sport since his last Paralympics in Salt Lake City 2002.
“In 2002, we were still racing in classes then – it was not the sitting, standing and blind, it was not racing on the factor system, we were racing straight up against people with like disabilities,” Waddell tells Around the Rings. “That was the last year that they did that and it was a huge change.”
Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games – Para Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom Sitting – Run 2 – National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China – March 10, 2022. Jesper Pedersen of Norway in action before winning the gold medal at the Men’s Giant Slalom Sitting. REUTERS/Aly Song (ALY SONG/)
“The technology continues to get better, it is a challenge of the Paralympics where you have Toyota that comes in and puts in its NASCAR and data accumulation,” Waddell explains about the high-tech component of Mono-skiing. “You also still have a bunch of other sort of Mom and Pop organizations, who are in it for the passion and trying to figure out how to do it.
“The sport continues to progress in terms of technique, training and performance throughout the world,” the Paralympic Hall-of-Famer notes. “There are some tremendous athletes and now there is more of a consistent World Cup season, so the athletes are racing against one another all the time.”
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