Canadian rider Tyler Turner’s meteoric rise in Para snowboard reached a major milestone on Friday (January 21) with his first World Championships gold in the men’s snowboard cross SB-LL1 at Lillehammer 2021.
The trailblazer beat off the sport’s finest athletes in a dramatic final to lift the SB-LL1 crown. It was his second medal of the World Para Snow Sports Championships having picked up a bronze in the dual banked slalom last Friday.
His triumphs were even more impressive, as the 32-year-old is relatively new to the sport. He lost his legs in a skydiving accident in 2017 but has since gone on to win gold in the 2021 World Cup in Colere, Italy.
“This is amazing, and I am so happy to have put it together and make it happen today,” said Turner after the race, in which he beat reigning Paralympic champion, Mike Schultz from the USA, into silver and his compatriot, Tyler Burdick into bronze.
Two-time world champion, Chris Vos from the Netherlands, fell during the race and came fourth.
“They [the finalists] have pushed the level so far,” Turner added. “It is really awesome to race against them. They are the best of the best. I hope I can keep this rolling for the Paralympics.”
Gold for Finland and France
Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari also boosted his chances of defending his Paralympic gold at Beijing 2022 after winning gold in the men’s SB-LL2. It was a third World Championship title for the PyeongChang 2018. But it was a fight to the finish with just 0.6 seconds between first and fourth places.
Cheered on by his fans in the crowd, the 35-year-old managed to hold on to his nerve, and the lead, as Australia’s Ben Tudhope followed just behind. He took home silver and USA’s Ben Strong the bronze. Canada’s Alex Massie, who came second in the dual banked slalom, was edged out in fourth.
“The final was really good,” said Suur-Hamari, who left behind the disappointment of missing the home World Championships in Pyha three years ago due to an injury. “It got a little close in the race, and I felt a bit trapped by Ben in the second part, but I was able to keep a lid on it and get to the finish line.
“I was really glad to be with them [the finalists] in the race and to have them on the podium with me.
It was an excellent day for French riders, too, with two gold medals in the snowboard cross.
Maxine Montaggioni put in an outstanding performance to retain his 2019 SB-UL world title. It was his second gold of the week, following his double-banked slalom triumph.
He had cruised through the quarter and semi-finals but faced a challenge in the final from Great Britain’s James Barnes-Miller. The British athlete held on to the lead for much of the race, expertly navigating the jumps and turns, with Montaggioni in hot pursuit.
The Frenchman managed to overtake him on the final turn to win by a margin of just 0.17 seconds. RPC’s Mikhail Slinkin came third followed by Japan’s Oiwane Masataka.
An elated Montaggioni, whose victory in the double-banked slalom was also clinched in the last few metres, said after the race: “It is incredible and amazing that I won this way [in the last few metres] two times. But that’s why we love this sport and the adrenaline. I am very happy to have had this experience before the Paralympics.”
His compatriot Cecile Hernandez also topped the podium in the women’s SB-LL1 event. The three-time world champion, who won silver in the dual banked slalom, dedicated her latest win to her daughter.
“This is for my daughter. I promised her that I would bring her back a gift from Norway,” she said. “It means a lot to be world champion. I was a bit disappointed with my silver [in the dual banked slalom], but racing is like that, so, I’m really happy to have won gold.
Hernandez had led the charge from the gate with Paralympic champion, USA’s Brenna Huckaby, in a close second. It was a two-woman race with Switzerland’s Ellen Walther off the pace from the start.
Huckaby and Hernandez were neck and neck, but the French athlete delivered when it mattered most to cross the line 0.20 seconds ahead of her rival.
The Netherlands also enjoyed two wins on the final day of the individual snowboard cross event.
It was a double first for Lisa Bunschoten, who successfully defended her 2019 SB-LL2 crown and took her second gold in Lillehammer – following the victory in the dual banked slalom.
The Dutch had fought off a challenge from Canada’s Lisa DeJong in the event. At one point, they were board to board, but Bunschoten drove hard for the finish line with DeJong just behind to take silver. Compatriot Renske Van Beek came third.
“It was a close race,” the winner said. “My only option was to go faster or go home, and I totally went for it. I am so happy that I got to win in Lillehammer.
Both Dutch athletes had great support from the crowd although far from home.
“Our fan club is amazing. It's so good that we have them here. They are crazy but they give me wings,” she said.
Poland’s Monika Kotzian also picked up her second gold of the week beating Spain’s Irati Idiakez Lopez in the women’s SB-UL final. The 31-year-old also won the dual banked slalom event.
The Para snowboard action at the World Championships concludes on Saturday (22 January) with the Team Event.
The Lillehammer 2021 World Championships is streamed live on the World Para Snow Sports Facebook page 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.