FOR the first time in Australia, athletes vying for a place on the Australian Paralympic Winter Team will race on local slopes next month at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Thredbo.
With just 200 days to go until the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) hopes that staging Australia's first international Paralympic skiing event will better equip athletes for similar weather conditions in Sochi.
Despite the unusually warm winter enjoyed by Australia's southern states recently, which has resulted in lower than expected snowfall, the conditions are remarkably similar to Sochi, where the temperature is expected to range between 4-11 C during the Games, which take place March 7-14 2014.
"Our athletes often don't get the chance to train and race at home with Australia's warmer weather conditions, which is why hosting the third round of the IPC World Cup is a significant advantage for our athletes' preparation as well as a significant step forward in promoting Paralympic winter sport in Australia," said 2014 Australian Chef de Mission, Kate McLoughlin.
"Sochi is a sub-tropical city on Russia's Black Sea, which doesn't have a heavy natural snowfall, similar to Australia. I think the conditions in Thredbo next month will suit our squad and will be ideal training for the international athletes as well."
Among those competing for Australia in the four-day slalom and giant slalom competition are Paralympic bronze medallists Toby Kane, Jessica Gallagher and Cameron Rahles-Rahbula, as well as World Cup giant slalom gold medallist Mitchell Gourley, World Cup slalom bronze medallist Melissa Perrine, fellow standing athlete Jonty O'Callaghan and sit-skiers Mark Soyer and Tori Pendergast.
Internationally all eyes will be on Slovakia's Vancouver 2010 giant slalom gold medallist Henrietta Farkasova in the women's vision impaired class. She is set to take on Australia's Melissa Perrine and Jessica Gallagher, who continues to build her strength and technique on the mountain a year on since competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Competition in the sitting class for athletes competing on sit-skis is expected to be tough for Australia however in the men's standing class for athletes with limb loss or limb deficiency, Toby Kane, Mitchell Gourley and Cameron Rahles-Rahbula look favourable for medals in both events.
Since successfully winning the rights to stage the third round of the IPC World Cup series in November 2012, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) has worked in partnership with Kosciusko Thredbo to deliver world class slalom and giant slalom racing.
"This is the first time the APC has hosted an international winter event and we're excited to bring Paralympic winter sport to Australia. Australia has traditionally performed very well at the winter Paralympics and we want to give our athletes every opportunity to perform well in Sochi. Making sure they have ample competition opportunities is crucial to their preparation," said McLoughlin.
Australia won one silver and three bronze medals at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
The IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup will run between September 2-6 on the World Cup run in Thredbo.
Monday September 2 - giant slalom.
Tuesday September 3 - giant slalom.
Wednesday September 4 - slalom.
Thursday September 5 - slalom.
Friday September 6 - weather day.