Australian Paralympic snowboarder Simon Patmore kept clipping seconds off his time with each run in the banked slalom in PyeongChang today to claim bronze – his second medal of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
And in doing so he not only gave himself a 100 per cent record in South Korea – two medals in two events – but doubled the Australian Team’s medal tally from Sochi 2014 to four. The Russian collection was two bronze medals. The PyeongChang collection currently sits at one gold and three bronze, with two events left on the 2018 program in Para-alpine skiing: the men’s and women’s slalom.
That gold is Patmore’s after a startling six runs in the snowboard cross on Monday.
“I can’t believe it,” Patmore said of his precious cargo after being ranked world No.6 in the snowboard cross and No.5 in banked slalom before heading to PyeongChang.
“I literally can’t wait to be a week from now and look at my medals and think ‘Oh my god, how did I get these?'” the 30-year-old from Brisbane said.
“I had no expectations going into banked slalom. I definitely did have a little confidence boost after the gold medal.
“I knew the boards were running fast so when I came down the course the first time and put down a good time, I thought ‘Well it’s game on!’
“I got some good advice from my coach (Lukas Prem) and each run I was able to put down a faster time.”
Patmore’s teammate in the upper-limb disability category, Sean Pollard, had his best result of the week with a fifth placing today after his ninth in the snowboard cross.
“It’s been a good day. I was a little disappointed after the snowboard cross on Monday but it’s good to get a better result today,” the 26-year-old said.
“The competition is really tough. Those guys know how to throw down. When the pressure is on they stood up.”
And that’s something Pollard can be proud of. He starts each race not being able to pull himself through the metal timing gates because he has no arms, unlike other competitors with just one functioning arm. Pollard lost both limbs to two sharks in an attack while surfing near Esperance, WA in October 2014.
“I was aiming for a top-eight finish so I’m happy with that today,” he said.
“I was dreaming of a podium finish when I came here but the reality is that I’m up against it in this category because the guys are really good.
“There hasn’t really been the time to think about it (his whole week as a first-time Paralympian). I’m sure over the coming weeks I’ll be reflecting on today and the whole experience. It’s been a good one.”
The banked slalom course had 14 turns and was 604 metres in length. Athletes had only one training run on the course yesterday, and there was no second look at it today before competition began.
“It was three runs off the bat. So you had to put down a fast time on the first run as the course was very firm and had a little ice on it,” Patmore said.
“When it’s icy like that, it’s hard to steer your board around, but it was quick.”
After the first run, all three Australians secured top-10 placings: Patmore 2nd, Pollard 6th in the SB-UL class for athletes with an upper limb disability, and Ben Tudhope 6th in the SB-LL2 class for athletes with a lower limb disability.
After the second, Patmore maintained 2nd, Pollard jumped to 4th, but Tudhope was 0.61sec slower to slip to 7th.
But in the third and final run, both Patmore and Tudhope were faster on the clock, but that didn’t translate into improved placings. Patmore took bronze for third behind Mike Minor (USA) and Patrick Mayrhoffer (Austria), while Tudhope finished in 7th position.
“It’s amazing representing Australia and just being here. I love the competition but everyone brought their A-game here today,” 18-year-old Tudhope said.
“I didn’t quite get the job done but I’m super proud of myself.”
Tudhope’s third run was his fastest and he said he looked a message sent to him from NRL star Jonathan Thurston, just before his last run. The pair met at the Sports Australia Hall of Fame awards late last year.
“That helped me to definitely believe in myself. I did make some stuff ups earlier but it was just great to get that PB (personal best) on the final run.”
Both Tudhope and Pollard were extremely proud of Patmore’s results.
“Simi is a legend. He’s the most amazing person and an amazing friend to me,” Tudhope said.
“He’s so determined and he was in the zone the whole time. So it’s not unexpected to me that he has done this well.”
Pollard added: “He’s a tough competitor and his preparation is second to none.
“The stuff I get to see behind the scenes of what he puts it, means he definitely deserves the medals.”