France’s Maxime Montaggioni pulled the biggest upset, while the Netherlands added two more titles on Tuesday (7 February), the final day of competition at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships in Big White, Canada.
Banked slalom races took place, with Montaggioni (1:10.65) knocking off the US favourite Mike Minor (1:10.94) with his third – and final – run for his first ever world title in the men’s SB-UL category.
The 27-year-old screamed in celebration once he heard Minor’s time in the third run.
“I saw that Minor was so fast, so in my second run I tried to do better. It did, but it was not enough. And the last run I said I have nothing to lose and to just go down as fast as I can,” said Montaggioni, who had lost to Minor in the snowboard-cross big final on Saturday (4 February).
“In this moment, I’m just happy. I’m smiling a lot,” he said. “I just want to go with my team to celebrate this incredible feeling.”
Minor, last season’s banked slalom World Cup winner, had gone undefeated all season until Tuesday; he added the silver to the gold medal he won from Saturday’s snowboard-cross. Great Britain’s Ben Moore, silver medallist from 2015, completed the podium.
The men’s SB-LL2 also came down to the last run, with a matter of split-seconds separating the medallists. Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari’s time of 1:07.82 sealed the deal and completed a golden World Championships. Great Britain’s Owen Pick (1:08.23) momentarily held the lead until Suur-Hamari bumped him to the silver medal. Japan’s Gurimu Narita (1:08.40) proved his wins from the NorAm and World Cups in January were no fluke. The former track-and-field athlete took home bronze to continue a remarkable season debut.
“I was surprised that I came out with the gold medal because it was such a tight race,” Suur-Hamari said. “The guys were putting good times and the course was freaking long.”
The Dutch continued to flex their strengths, as Bibian Mentel-Spee and Chris Vos went two-for-two at Big White 2017.
In second place after her first run, Mentel-Spee summoned speed in her next to retain her world title in the women’s SB-LL2. Her compatriot Lisa Bunschoten secured her second silver in Big White, and some redemption after missing the banked slalom podium from the 2015 World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Australia’s reigning silver medallist Joany Badenhorst completed the podium.
“I’m so happy that it worked out,” Mentel-Spee said. “After my first run I got really really scared. Lisa was a half-second before me, and I was like ‘Wow I really need to step up my game’ because she was really fast. So I did in the second run, luckily I took some time off my first run; I was really stoked about that.”
Vos’ first-run time in the men’s SB-LL1 was untouched, as the 18-year-old can now call himself a four-time world champion. After missing the podium in Saturday’s snowboard-cross race, the USA’s Mike Schultz did not leave empty handed as he locked the silver medal. Austria’s Reinhold Schett held onto third place by .70 seconds, completing a successful Worlds debut that saw him take silver in snowboard-cross.
“I came here to defend my gold medal, but I knew the guys were really charging,” Vos said. “The border-cross was really tight but the banked slalom is more my race, there is more carving. But yeah, it happened twice again, and I am really excited.”
After taking last season off due to pregnancy, the USA’s Brenna Huckaby was another snowboarder to go undefeated in Big White. The 21-year-old upgraded her silver from La Molina 2015, dethroning France’s reigning world champion Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon in the women’s SB-LL1. The race for bronze was tight, and the USA’s Amy Purdy was able to squeeze onto the podium with her second run.
“I did not land a single training run [on Monday] so I came in with low expectations,” Huckaby said. “Coming from such a high from snowboard-cross into banked slalom, I just told myself place doesn’t matter. I got what I came here for and I just wanted to love snowboarding again and that is exactly what I did. So there was no pressure.”
Complete results from the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships can be found at www.bigwhite2017.com
Around 70 athletes from 15 countries were at Big White 2017. It was a chance for athletes to secure qualification spots for their countries at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.