Familiar faces light up Landgraaf

Paralympic champions get off to winning Europa Cup start

female Para alpine skier Marie Bochet goes round a gate Marie Bochet proved yet again why she is the one to beat in women's standing at Landgraaf 2018 © • Ernest Selleget

Familiar faces topped the Para alpine podium as Paralympic champions Marie Bochet and Jeroen Kampschreur picked up two titles each at the season’s first Europa Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands.

The unstoppable eight-time Paralympic champion Bochet continued to prove she is the one to beat, finishing both women’s slalom standing events more than 10 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s double silver medallist Bigna Schmidt.

The French star came to Landgraaf with practice and perfection in mind as she looks to defend her four world titles at the upcoming 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing World Championships in January.

“I feel good. It was not easy because we had a very big season last winter and I need to take some time for new goals and new feelings; I hope I will be ready in December for the first World Cup,” said Bochet.

“It’s like a training for us (coming here), but I think it’s very important to make some runs in the race conditions so that’s the goal here for the French team.”

Local favourite Kampschreur was all smiles, beating out a healthy dose of competition on his home turf in the men’s slalom sitting category. After his historic Paralympic debut in March, the Dutch teen will be one to watch as the season progresses.

“It’s good to be racing again after a good long season and having a little vacation,” said Kampschreur.

“I’m really excited to go to the World Championships again because I have three titles to defend and I hope to put down a good slalom.”

Brilliant Bauchet

Four-time PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Arthur Bauchet leaves Landgraaf with two golds, overshadowing Swiss rivals Robin Cuche and Thomas Pyfl with ease in both slalom races.

The 18-year-old looked in great form to start the season after having little rest since his Paralympic debut reliving the warm welcome he received when arriving home.

“A lot of people know me now, it’s crazy,” said Bauchet. “There’s a lot of things that come with Paralympic medals. For my career, I think it’s just the beginning and a very good beginning.”

“The mentality and the look about the Paralympic Games are better now [in France]. Paris will be very good for the people and to show that the disabled can do a lot of beautiful things.”

Experience meets youth

In the battle of the men’s vision impaired, the event saw a split between five-time Paralympic champion Jakub Krako with guide Branislav Brozman and a fresh face on the British scene. Krako took the top spot on day one but left the field wide open for a new winner after missing the gate in the first run of Friday’s (11 November) competition.

At just 15-year-old newbie Neil Simpson, with brother Andrew acting as his guide, came away with his first title in his Europa Cup debut after picking up bronze on Thursday (10 November).

“I’m just really happy that it just actually clicked over the last few days,” said Simpson. “Today it all came together and we skied really well. We’re hoping to get enough points to go to the World Cup but for now we’re focused on the Europa Cups and doing well.”

Former wheelchair basketball star turned alpine skier Barbara van Bergen stole the show in the women’s slalom sitting with two top finishes to open her season. The Dutch skier hopes to use this season to continue perfecting her skills after just missing out on qualification for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics.

The Netherlands’ Maaike Bennink leaves as the Europa Cup champion for the women’s slalom vision impaired category.

The two-day event featured 53 athletes from 13 countries. The next Europa Cup will be held from 25-27 November in Pyha, Finland.

For full results from the 2018 Landgraaf Europa Cup, head to the World Para Alpine Skiing website.