Snowboard-cross surprises on Day 1 in Pyha

Suur-Hamari wins at home World Cup but other events see shock results

a group of Para snowboarders smile with their medals The winners from Day 1 of the World Para Snowboard World Cup in Pyha, Finland © • IPC

The first day of the World Para Snowboard World Cup in Pyha, Finland, saw new faces rise to the top of the podium on Friday (1 December) in snowboard-cross.

Home favourite Matti Suur-Hamari was the one standout name who managed to avoid an upset, as the reigning world champion defeated the USA’s Worlds silver medallist Evan Strong in the big final of the men’s SB-LL2. It was a close finish in the small final, with Great Britain’s Owen Pick securing his first podium finish of the season after beating Japan’s Gurimu Narita by small margins.

“The racing was really tight, it’s good to start snowboard-cross season like this,” Suur-Hamari said. “Everyone in the top 10 in our class can win the race. We are so close to each other.

The Pyha World Cup is the first time snowboarders are racing in boarder-cross this season ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in March, and the results on Friday showed anything can happen in less than 100 days’ time.

After two second-place finishes in banked slalom at the last World Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon secured her first victory of the season. She beat the USA’s reigning world champion Brenna Huckaby for the gold medal in the women’s SB-LL1. It was the first time Hernandez-Cervellon beat her rival since March’s World Cup, which was also in snowboard-cross. The USA’s Amy Purdy finished ahead of compatriot Nicole Roundy for the bronze medal.

“I think it was one of my best races since I’ve been racing,” Hernandez-Cervellon said. “I’m cold but I’m very happy.”

Australia’s Simon Patmore emerged as the winner in the men’s SB-UL, which was also his first victory this season after taking runner-up in banked slalom at the first World Cup in Treble Cone, New Zealand. He crossed the finish line ahead of France’s Worlds silver medallist Maxime Montaggioni. Canada’s Curtis Minard stood on his first World Cup podium this season with his win over Italy’s Manuel Pozzerle in the small final.

“I’m super stoked about my performance and I’m super stoked that all the other riders did well too,” Patmore said.

It was an all-US showdown in the men’s SB-LL1, with Mike Schultz taking the top prize and continuing his podium consistency this season. Noah Elliott took the silver, while Austria’s Reinhold Schett took home the bronze after defeating Japan’s Daichi Oguri.

“Things were just clicking and my plan was to make no mistakes, and I made all four of my runs with very minimal mistakes and was able to win every one of my heats,” Schultz said. “

The Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten remains undefeated this season in the women’s SB-LL2. The World Championships silver medallist crossed the line ahead of the USA’s Brittani Coury. Australia’s Joany Badenhorst outlasted Spain’s Astrid Fina Paredes for third place.

Eighty athletes are in Pyha for the penultimate World Cup, which finishes on Saturday (2 December) with more snowboard-cross.

Live results are available on World Para Snowboard's website.