A career milestone of winning 30 gold medals at the Paralympic Games or World Championships would be cause for celebration for most athletes. Marie Bochet is taken by surprise by it.
“I don’t keep this count,” the French standing skier admitted after winning her career’s 30th major gold medal, in giant slalom, at the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships.
“It was very important because the two last years, it was very difficult because I had some questions if I continue or not, why, for what?” Bochet said. “I discovered a lot of things this season, with this result, so I’m very happy to fight one final time against every bad thing to happen to me and get to this podium, to this victory, here at the Worlds.”
Bochet has won at least two gold medals at every Paralympic Games and World Championships going back to 2011. Her dominant decade in the sport also included three Worlds golden sweeps.
She brought that golden tally to a hefty 30 at Lillehammer 2021 with a victory in the most competitive discipline on the programme.
While Bochet led the first giant slalom run by 0.18 seconds, her advantage slipped away at the start of the second run as RPC’s Varvara Voronchikhina looked on track to take her third straight gold in Norway.
But a powerful bottom section propelled Bochet to another golden result and she ultimately finished 0.60 seconds ahead of the RPC youngster. Canada’s Mollie Jepsen finished third.
“I’m very happy with my race today because giant is the toughest discipline in our category,” Bochet said. “The girls are very strong so I didn’t know if I was able to win another giant and finally, yes [I did], today at these Worlds so I’m very happy with that and my skiing in the second run, that I was able to fight against me and my limits.”
ONE FOR THE FAMILY
In contrast to Bochet, Barbara Aigner’s victory in the women’s vision impaired giant slalom was her career’s first world title.
What’s more, it was the first world title for the Aigner family where three of the five children are World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup champions.
Barbara Aigner’s twin brother Johannes Aigner brought Austria two silver medals in the men’s vision impaired super-G and giant slalom events. Her older sister Veronika was a World Cup leader over the past seasons but an injury kept her out of Lillehammer 2021.
When Aigner got injured, it was her younger sister who stepped forward to represent the family in the women’s vision impaired class. And the 16-year-old did it brilliantly, claiming a gold medal in her first World Championships race.
“It does mean a lot for us because we did not think about this before the race and now it happened, so it’s awesome,” said Aigner’s guide Klara Sykora.
Aigner took a solid 1.16 second lead in the first run over 16-time Paralympic champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia, who has been undefeated so far at Lillehammer 2021.
While Farkasova put pressure on Aigner in Run 2 when she recorded the fastest time in the group, Aigner still managed to preserve her lead and take the gold by 0.43 seconds.
Another Austrian skier Elina Stary took the bronze by edging Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Menna Fitzpatrick off the podium.
USA’s Laurie Stephens took the gold medal in the women’s sitting event after Run 1 leader and three-time champion at Lillehammer 2021, Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster, crashed on her second attempt.
The victory is Stephens’ second career world title since she won the downhill in 2013. Her only major medal in giant slalom to date was a silver at her first Paralympic Winter Games in 2006.
“I just love skiing so that’s why I’ve been around for so long,” Stephens said. “Today was a little rough, condition-wise, but I’m pretty happy with how I ended up.”
Canada’s Katie Combaluzier took the silver and Great Britain’s Shona Brownlee the bronze. Both skiers are making their World Championships debuts at Lillehammer 2021.
“It’s always great to see new athletes coming up and see where they go,” Stephens said of the rising stars in the women’s sitting class. “It’s been great to have some new people in our category.”
The Para alpine races of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships continue with the men’s slalom on Friday, 21 January.
All Lillehammer 2021 events are streamed live on World Para Snow Sports Facebook https://www.facebook.com/parasnowsports/ and Para alpine skiing https://www.paralympic.org/alpine-skiing, Para Nordic skiing https://www.paralympic.org/nordic-skiing and Para snowboard https://www.paralympic.org/snowboard websites.
Pictures for editorial purposes will be available on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/albums.
More information about the World Para Snow Sports Championships can be found on the Lillehammer 2021 page https://www.paralympic.org/lillehammer-2021.