The final day of competition at the 2012 INAS World Championship for Athletes with an Intellectual Disability was the Super G, and while the blizzard from the previous day had subsided, the feared Erzurum cold weather that we had long been anticipating finally appeared, with temps of -15C with a bone-chilling wind at the top of the course.
The golden run of Australian Athlete Nicole Harris was brought to a halt by her great friend and rival Heidi Mackowitz from Austria. Heidi prevailed by one second over Nicole on a course that was expertly set by the Spanish coaches.
However Nicole’s advantage over Heidi in Thursday’s Slalom was 1.8 seconds which meant that Nicole was crowned World Champion in the Super Combined, which is a category more often seen in the World Cup and Olympics and is a combination of Slalom and a speed event (either Downhill or Super G). In this case the Slalom and Super G times were added and Nicole emerged fastest.
So while Nicole missed out on a ‘clean sweep’ of the events by the narrowest of margins she was still ecstatic with her results and leaves with a further goal for next year’s event.
Australia’s Olivia Sayers was bitterly disappointed with her ninth place in Friday’s Giant Slalom, and despite never having either trained nor raced Super G before she was determined to improve her result – training for the ‘Speed’ events is specialised and rare, and this conspired to make Olivia’s first ever run of Super G in competition. Due to her inexperience, lighter weight and shorter skis we did not believe this would be her strong event but I am thrilled to report she proved us all wrong and skied the run of her life. She finished in seventh place overall but these placings were tightly contested and she was only 0.15 seconds from fifth position. Furthermore her time advantage over her rivals in the Slalom was such that she claimed fifth in the Super Combined which is a stunning result.
Summary of the Australian Team’s results:
Giant Slalom: 1st
Super G: 2nd
Super Combined: 1st
Giant Slalom: 9th
Super G: 7th
Super Combined: 5th
After the conclusion of the Super G we headed to a the historical Town Centre of Erzurum for the Medal Ceremony. Dancing seemed to be the crowds answer to the cold weather and it was a great opportunity to celebrate and exchange hats, pins and other memorabilia. Our Green & Gold caps were in high demand and it was great to see our friends sporting them after the event.
This was the conclusion of the official events of the games, we returned to the official hotel for some traditional Turkish music and ceremonies, and then moved into the Disco.
I found that the spirit of the event was fantastic – while the emphasis was on medals and achievement which sets INAS apart from other participation-oriented events, the camaraderie and team spirit was fantastic. The event organisers and coaches were guided by a common goal of safety and fairness and while the level of competition was fierce the participants conducted themselves with the highest level of integrity.
We departed this morning with a number of the teams and said our goodbyes in anticipation of next year’s event. While I have a strong background in mainstream in both Ski Instruction and Racing & Events my prior exposure to disabled skiing was not enormous so I have personally enjoyed the challenges of training Olivia and participating in the event. I’m thrilled that my personal circumstances allowed me to volunteer as a coach for the Australian Team. One of the very last lessons I taught as a professional Ski Instructor was with a blind skier and I remember feeling a pang of regret that my career path had led me in other directions. I would also like to thank Olivia’s Mother Fiona and Nicole’s Mother Sharyn for sharing their experiences and helping me increase my understanding of both Intellectual Disabilites and the structure and politics of the sporting events on offer.
Fiona, Sharyn and myself had many discussions on how we can progress skiing for Australian Intellectually Disabled Athletes with a view of identifying and training skiers towards a goal of having them compete in future INAS World Championship events. Please get in contact via [email protected] if you would like any further information.
I’m writing this in a hotel in Istanbul before I fly early tomorrow to my beloved Chamonix for some alpine adventures with my good friend and guide Jerome. Keep an eye on aussieskier.com to see what we get up to!