Melissa Perrine flies down the slopes in PyeongChang.
Melissa Perrine flies down the slopes in PyeongChang.

Tough start for Aussies in PyeongChang

MEL Perrine, around midday, went and sat alone for 30 minutes.

Felt sorry for herself.

Likely threw things.

All up, privately venting over a downhill run that, if tweaked only slightly on opening day of the 2018 Winter Paralympics, could have finished with her on a podium.

"So I'm giving myself 30 minutes to feel absolutely rat shit," the visually-impaired skier said shortly before disappearing.

"Half an hour of self pity. Of throwing things.

"Of screaming, ranting, raving."

And then?

"Then it's done,'' she added.

"But this means so much, so you have to give yourself that time."

Indeed, it was that sort of day for Australia.

Take amputee Mitch Gourley, who missed a gate and bombed out on his downhill run. Or Tori Pendergast, the gutsy Gosford sit skier who had one hand on bronze when she crashed.

And as for Victorian paraplegic Mark Soyer ... well, he couldn't even get his bloody gear to fit.

 

"I went to jump in the ski at the start but something wasn't right," said the sit skier who went on to crash early. "With the way the skis had been set up, we didn't fit (the sit-ski frame into the binding)

"When they drilled it last night they drilled it too short. So we actually couldn't fit into the bindings.

"We had to redrill it at the start."

So, um, how does that happen?

"I'm not sure," Soyer shrugged. "It's not up to me."

But you'll be having a chat to the guy with the drill, right?

"Yes, we will."

Elsewhere, there was also an incredible near miss for Pendergast, the Central Coast skier who -- coming out last of seven in her downhill category -- was a silver medallist at the second gate and still clinging to bronze through the third.

Then .... @#%&$* ... she fell.

"Which hurts," the Aussie conceded afterwards, referencing mental rather than physical damage. "I'll probably look at the splits and cry into my pillow tonight."

At which point you say Perrine is giving herself 30 minutes to vent.

"I'm giving myself half-an-hour, too," she grinned. "I probably won't even go to see my family because I'm going to be foul.

"But while it's a bummer, I'll just take the good things from today's race and bring them into the Super-G."

Mark Soyer during the men’s downhill - sitting on Saturday.
Mark Soyer during the men’s downhill - sitting on Saturday.

Ditto Perrine.

Entering into all five alpine events, the Mittagong skier said that, apart from being relieved to get her Games program underway, she had also effectively finished her worst discipline first.

Better, it offered up solid information for moving forward.

"I had a couple of key mistakes in areas where I couldn't afford to lose the speed," she said of her fifth placing. "And that's what cost me the podium position I was after.

"But I'll work on the positives and take that forward.

"Downhill is my weakest event. I'm now looking forward to Super G and the rest of the program."

Which isn't to say there weren't bright spots for the Aussies.

Jonty O'Callaghan, for example, described his first downhill Games run, where he placed 22nd, as "amazing". And sit skier Sam Tait, only hours before his debut appearance, had to ask family to stop sending texts, so emotional was he getting.

Despite being ranked world No.21 at the top of the hill, the Southern Highlands skier would eventually finish the day 11th.

"So I'm stoked," he said.

Tori Pendergast.
Tori Pendergast.

Asked about his own dramas, Gourley added: "Obviously I missed the gate there but I'm really happy with what I did.

"Really happy with the intent."

Like Perrine, the Aussie co-captain's favoured events also arrive later in the program, specifically the Giant Slalom and Super Combined.

However Gourley did admit the South Korean conditions weren't as favourable as he had hoped.

"The hill's a bit flatter than what I'd like," he said. "I'm a little guy and I'm in a low impairment class, so the harder the better for me.

"And this one, it's a challenge for me in some ways but it's not super difficult physically.

"It's not super steep, there's no big jump or things like that. So like in Tarvisio (at the World Championships) last year, I go on a hill like that and I have to take risks.

"That's what I did in Tarvisio and it's same thing, same process here. So we'll keep cracking at that. We've got a good steep slalom hill here to come back on."



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