March 13, 2014, SOCHI, RUS (ISN) – Canada’s Chris Williamson, guided by Nick Brush, made a remarkable comeback from injury and a last-minute change to his guide by winning bronze in the men’s visually impaired slalom on Thursday at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in what was Williamson’s very first race of the 2013-14 season.
The 41-year-old veteran from Toronto, Ont., pushed through a leg break sustained this past summer to make it to his fourth Paralympic Winter Games, having not raced at all this season on the International Paralympic Committee World Cup circuit.
Just one week prior to arriving in Sochi, he also faced a change to his regular guide, Robin Fémy, and was reunited with Brush, his guide from the 2010 Vancouver Games. Brush, 25, from Invermere, B.C., and Williamson captured bronze in Sochi after having skied together again for only a few days.
“Overall, I am happy with any medal. It has been a long road to try to get to here,” said Williamson, who already has three Paralympic medals, including gold in slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. “To get a bronze here under these circumstances is exceptional. My guide Nick and I have worked really hard together in the past four days to be as ready for this as possible, so I think we’re doing exceptionally well.”
Williamson and Brush, who were tied for second after the first run, earned their bronze with a two-run combined time of one minute, 48.61 seconds.
“The weather and the course have been tricky all week … the snow is heavy and the course is filled with ruts; you really had to grind through it, and we were successful in doing that today.”
Williamson and Brush – who first raced together in 2007 and won the IPC World Cup overall Crystal Globe in 2009 – were close to the podium in Vancouver 2010 with two fourth-place finishes and two sixth-place finishes, so a medal in Sochi is especially sweet, Williamson said.
“It’s a monkey off our backs from 2010. We’re a successful duo, and it’s nice to be able to prove that again.”
“It’s so good to be back racing with Chris again,” Brush added. “It’s so cool and such a great experience to be able to come to the Paralympics again and race with him, and to win a medal makes me even happier.”
Williamson and Brush will race again in men’s giant slalom on Saturday, in what will be Williamson’s final race of his sixteen-year career.
“I can’t wait,” Williamson said. “I have nothing to lose. It’s my last event of the Paralympics, and it’s my last Paralympics, so whatever happens, happens. If I go home with an extra medal, that would be great, but if I go home with extra memories, that is great as well.”
Valerii Redkozubov of Russia won gold in the men’s visually impaired category (1:43.21), and Spain’s Yon Santacana earned silver (1:46.82). Canada’s Mac Marcoux, guided by Robin Fémy, did not finish his second run.
In the men’s standing category, Matt Hallat, of Coquitlam, B.C., laid down the best run of any of his three Paralympic Winter Games experiences, placing sixth (1:43.81) and “absolutely leaving it all out there.” Kirk Schornstein, from Spruce Grove, Alta., was 16th (1:54.05), and Duncan, B.C.’s Braydon Luscombe did not finish his second run.
In the sitting division, the Canadian men did note fare well on a rutty, bumpy track that caused some wild rides down the course. Defending slalom silver medallist Josh Dueck, of Kimberley, B.C., and Caleb Brousseau, of Terrace, B.C., did not finish their first runs, while Kurt Oatway, from Calgary, Alta., did not finish his second run.
The next alpine race is on Friday, with men’s and women’s super-G from Tuesday’s postponed super combined race.
Photo: Scott Grant / CPC