Britain’s alpine skiers faced several challenges to their competition in Vancouver, including difficult conditions which caused several crashes and poor visibility, a reorder of the competition schedule and, on one occasion, equipment failure.
Despite this, the team rallied and put in some strong performances, including a 4th place finish for Kelly Gallagher in the Giant Slalom - the best finish for a British visually-impaired skier since 1994.
Other positive results included 6th place finishes in the Slalom for both Kelly Gallagher and Anna Turney, while Sean Rose finished 8th in the men’s Slalom and 7th in the Downhill.
Since Vancouver, British skiers have won a silver and a bronze medal at the 2011 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy in January 2011.
Before Turin, all of GB’s Paralympic Winter Games medals had been won in Alpine Skiing. The first Alpine Skiing medal ever won by GB was a bronze in the men’s Alpine Combination at the 1984 Winter Games in Innsbruck. In 1992 GB secured one silver medal and four bronze medals in Alpine events and in 1994 GB won a further five bronze medals in Alpine Skiing.
- First year at a Paralympic Games:
- Örnsköldsvik 1976
- Brief history:
- Skiing became increasingly popular following the end of the Second World War, when injured servicemen sought to return to Skiing as a sport. The first documented Championships for disabled skiers were held in Badgastein, Austria, in 1948 and featured 17 athletes. At the first Paralympic Winter Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976, athletes competed in Slalom and Giant Slalom and three distances in Nordic Skiing. Downhill was added to the Paralympic programme in 1984 in Innsbruck, Austria, and Super-G was added in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway. Sit-skiing or mono-skiing, was introduced as a demonstration sport at the Innsbruck 1984 Paralympics and became a medal event at the Nagano 1998 Paralympic Games.
- Eligible impairment groups:
- Athletes with physical and visual impairments
- Vancouver medal table:
1 - Germany (seven gold, four silver, four bronze)
2 - Canada (six gold, four silver, three bronze)
3 - Slovakia (six gold, two silver, three bronze)
- GB medals in Vancouver:
- GB did not win a medal in Alpine Skiing in Vancouver
- Did you know:
- The introduction of the mono-ski meant that people who were daily wheelchair users could also take up Skiing. Until then, only athletes with ampututations or who had visual impairments could ski.
Alpine disciplines at the Paralympic Winter Games are Downhill, Super Giant Slalom (Super-G), Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined. In all competitions the winning competitor is the one who, without missing any gates, records the lowest time over the course.
Snowboard Cross joins the Alpine disciplines on the Paralympic programme in Sochi 2014 for the first time.
Paralympic Alpine Skiing conforms to some of the parameters that have been laid down by the ISF (International Skiing Federation) in terms of the difference in altitude and the number of gates along the course.
Downhill is the most spectacular of the Alpine Skiing disciplines. The vertical drop (altitude distance between the start and finish gates) varies from 450m to 800m, with competitors required to pass through a series of red gates that are used as checkpoints during the descent.
The Super-G was developed in the early 1980s as an event between free downhill descent and the Giant Slalom. Today, however, it is much closer in terms of speed and technical features to the Downhill discipline. Super-G competitions are held on a slope with a vertical drop variation of 400m to 600m, with the course marked with a minimum of 30 alternating blue and red gates, positioned to enforce changes of direction.
In the Giant Slalom the gates are closer than those in the speed events and the vertical drop varies from 300m to 400m. The competition is contested over two rounds using the same slope but with different courses. The starting order in the second heat is created by reversing the first 30 classified places from the first heat or, in some cases, the first 15 classified places.
In Slalom the vertical drop difference can vary from 140m to 220m. The competition is carried out over two heats on the same slope but with different courses, in the same way as Giant Slalom. The number of gates on the course varies. The Slalom requires considerable agility and dexterity since the slopes in Slalom competitions are very steep, with thick snow artificially iced in order to avoid any premature deterioration of the competition surface.
The Super Combined is an event which combines the results from other events. One of the results from either the Downhill or Super-G event is combined with one of the run results from the Slalom. The times are combined and a ranking list drawn up.
Snowboard Cross is an event in which each athlete competes three runs down the course with the finish time of their best two runs determining the final order, based on ascending time. There is only one rider on the course at a time. The event takes place on a man-made course constructed from a variety of terrain features such as bank turns, various jumps and rollers.
Alpine Skiing is open to athletes who have any physical impairment or who have a visual impairment. A specifically devised classification criteria is used to mediate between the different impairments.
There are three categories of racer:
1 - Visually Impaired. Athletes with a visual impairment use exactly the same equipment as that used by non-disabled athletes but require the company of a guide, who skis ahead of the competitor while providing verbal instruction on slope and direction. Athletes can have varying degrees of visual impairment.
2 - Standing. Standing skiers are athletes who have an amputation or disarticulation of upper limbs and use the same equipment as that used by non-disabled athletes, with the only difference being the skiing poles on the side affected by the impairment. Standing skiers who have a lower limb amputation can use one or two skis and, because the athlete maintains balance on only one limb, competitors use two stabilizers (a type of crutch with a small ski that rests on the snow) instead of ski poles. Athletes with below-knee amputations can wear a prothesis.
3 - Sitting. Skiers with impairments that affect both limbs (double amputation) or with vertebral lesion (paraplegia or quadriplegia) use a sit-ski or ‘monoski’. This is a special piece of equipment that has a specifically designed seat with a shock absorber mechanism. Two stabilizers are used to help the athlete maintain balance.