By Gary Anderson

September 5 - Cameron Rahles-Rahbula performing on his home slopes in ThredboDespite an early finish to the first ever International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Cup in Australia, organisers of the event were delighted with the first three days of action, which saw the hosts bag three gold medals to finish third behind Slovakia and table toppers the US.

Warm temperatures and a lack of snowfall saw no action on the fourth and final day of the IPC event in Thredbo, New South Wales, with the slalom competition having to be called off early.

"Leading into this event the weather posed a massive challenge and risk for us," said Australian Sochi 2014 Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin.

"Temperatures were too warm, unseasonably warm, and there wasn't a big snowfall in the Snowy Mountains this year which threatened the running of the event.

"We did everything in our control to ensure the World Cup went ahead.

"We had to change a few things around like the course and the start times to make the most of the snow but in the end, we made the right decisions and racing went ahead.

"We're really happy that we managed to get three days off the ground in a sport that is really in the hands of the weather."

Despite the early finish, McLoughlin said that the feedback from many of the athletes visiting Australia for the first time has been very positive, considering the difference in skiing conditions between the northern and southern hemispheres.

"They're leaving with a really good feeling about Australia," she said.

"This was a unique event for the international athletes as well as our own; they've never competed at a World Cup event in such mild conditions but the conditions are actually very similar to what they could face in Sochi next year."

Mitchell Gourley bagged two gold medals at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in ThredboMitchell Gourley bagged two gold medals at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Thredbo

While the event may have had to finish early, it was certainly a successful one for the hosts, as they finished third on the overall medals table, helped by three gold medals - two from Mitchell Gourley and one from Cameron Rahles-Rahbula.

Gourley carried on his fine start to the season at the first IPC alpine skiing competition in New Zealand, where he claimed three silvers and a bronze, by bagging two gold medals on his home slopes in the giant slalom events, while compatriot Rahles-Rahbula was top of the pile in the standing slalom race.

With impressive performances from podium-placers Jessica Gallagher and Tori Prendergast also, McLoughlin is confident that the Australian team's build-up and preparation for the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics is moving in the right direction and was helped by staging a home IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup competition.

"There are still improvements to be made but this far out from a Games, we are on track and looking good," she added.

"A solid block of training and competing in the northern hemisphere at the end of the year will be important leading into Sochi and this competition here in Thredbo has been a big part of the team's preparation.

"The APC [Australian Paralympic Committee] was committed to hosting the World Cup to give our athletes a chance to compete at home during our winter and the northern hemisphere's off season.

"In the future, we will certainly look at hosting another World Cup and hopefully the event and Paralympic winter sport can grow in Australia."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
September 2013: 
Top skiers ready for Australia's first IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup
August 2013: Paralympic champion Hall preparing for Sochi 2014 with start of IPC Alpine Skiing season
July 2013: US Paralympic Alpine skiing team for new season announced
March 2013: Chef de Missions for Sochi 2014 Paralympics gather for workshop and seminar