Stellar Canadian comebacks kick off Para Alpine Skiing World Cup season

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Mac Marcoux and Mollie Jepsen.Photo:Dave Holland/Canadian Paralympic Committee

The odds were stacked against Mac Marcoux and Mollie Jepsen going into the 2019-20 World Cup season. The Paralympic champions from Canada missed the previous season due to injury and illness and were making their return to the circuit in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.

But true to their champion reputation, both exceeded expectations by picking up a total of five gold medals in the three super-G races at the Swiss ski resort.

Marcoux and his guide Tristan Rodgers swept gold in all three events of the men’s visually impaired class, while Jepsen grabbed two golds – and broke Frenchwoman Marie Bochet’s more than a year-long winning streak in the process.

“I’m just so stoked to be back skiing. I came in open minded, wanted to feel things out, see where we were sitting,” said Marcoux.

“I was injured for the last year, so I’ve just been running the rehab train, spending a lot of time in the gym, trying to get better and healthy as much as I can be before I was back skiing,” he added.

“I would not say I am 100 percent, but I feel really good. I feel strong on my skis, really stoked with the training we put in the summer and it feels really good.”

EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED

Jepsen sat out the previous season as well because she contracted Crohn’s disease in September 2018. She started training again only three months ago, and shocked onlookers when she outraced five-time world champion Bochet in two races. The French skier did not finish her first race, and trailed Jepsen by 0.85 seconds in the third.

“The hardest part was getting back in the gym and getting strong again because I had lost a lot of weight. I’ve been out for a really long time, but once I got back on snow, it just felt amazing,” Jepsen said.

“I was really happy with my skiing today and just to know that I can still punch it in there when I put in the aggression and put in all together, it’s really awesome.”

Alexis Guimond and Kurt Oatway added more hardware to Canada’s medal count. Guimond picked up a silver and bronze in the men’s standing after a underwhelming past season.

Meanwhile, sit skier Oatway, who was largely absent on the World Cup circuit last year, took gold in the first super-G, outracing Dutch five-time world champion Jeroen Kampschreur and the overall Crystal Globe winner from Norway, Jesper Pedersen.

Pedersen returned strong in the last two races, however, picking up two gold.

A+ STUDENTS

Arthur Bauchet began the 2019-20 season the same way as he finished the last one – with a winning flourish. The overall Crystal Globe winner from France tallied up maximum points from his three victories in the men’s standing class in Veysonnaz.

“It’s a good surprise. It’s a difficult slope so it’s really nice to win here,” Bauchet said. “It’s good to start the season with victory.”

As has become tradition in Veysonnaz, the race winners not only received medals but also half rounds of raclette cheese. Bauchet, who now has the biggest cheese collection of all, already knows what he will do with the local delicacy.

“I will give some cheese to my coach and all my staff because they deserve it,” he said. “My family also already saw the pictures and they said, ‘oh cheese cheese!’ so I think I will do a big raclette when I’m back home.”

Like Bauchet, Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster also went undefeated in Switzerland. The sit skier took gold in the first two races and sat out the third.

“I trained well and it paid off,” said Forster, who spent her summer studying psychology, doing strength training and testing out new equipment. “I changed my mono-ski seat. It’s another material so it’s harder and it’s more direct when I make a turn.”

PICKING UP SPEED

After a previous season packed with technical races, Forster was excited to get more speed events on the calendar in 2020.

“We missed it last year,” she said. “There were not many races for speed and it’s cool that we have more races in speed this year.”

Forster was not the only one excited about starting off the season in a speedy whirl. The return of the speed events in Veysonnaz was welcome news for the speed specialists who had fewer opportunities to show off their skills last season. Among them, Dutch sit skier Barbara van Bergen, who picked up a gold and silver in the super-Gs at the Swiss ski resort.

“When you’re up there, you’re like, ‘OK, my heart rate is going up and it’s going to be fun, but also…whoa!’ and then once you’re on the course, you just have to go. There’s no turning back and the speed is so cool,” van Bergen said. “It’s a feeling you can’t describe.”

The competition in Veysonnaz will turn to the technical disciplines again in the next days with two giant slalom races set to wrap up this leg of the World Cup.