By Paul Osborne

Marie Bochet competing in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic GamesOctober 14 - With Sochi 2014 fast approaching, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has named 14 Alpine skiers as ones to look out for in the lead up to the Games.

The athletes, who are split into three different categories - standing, sitting and visually impaired - have nearly 30 world and Paralympic titles between them across the downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and super-combined disciplines, and are tipped to be medal contenders on the slopes in Russia come next March.

Headlining the list is five-time reigning world champion, Marie Bochet, the French star who swept the board at the 2013 IPC World Championships in La Molina, Spain, winning gold in each of the five disciplines she entered in the standing class.

The 19-year-old also won the women's standing speed events at the 2013 World Cup finals in Sochi, on the same course that will be used at the Paralympics.

Hard on Bochet's heels and next on this list is 23-year-old Andrea Rothfuss, the German who edged her in the overall World Cup points total for the 2012-2013 season.

Rothfuss took silver in four events at the 2013 IPC World Championships, losing out to Bochet in each one.

Austrian athlete, Markus Salcher, is a new addition to the list having claimed gold in the men's downhill and super-G standing events at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships.

The 22-year-old, who has risen to world number one since Vancouver 2010, will be participating in his second Winter Games come Sochi 2014.

"I've already had nine years of experience with the national team, so some consider me a veteran," Salcher said.

"After my most successful season, I've prepared myself over the summer with intense training for the upcoming Paralympic season."

Markus Salcher of Austria has risen to the number one spot since Vancouver 2010Markus Salcher of Austria has risen to the number one spot since Vancouver 2010

Next up is French skier Vincent Gauthier, considered the best skier in the standing class and who won two gold medals at this year's World Championships.

Gauthier's rise to stardom came in the 2011 IPC Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy, where he won four gold medals and two silver.

Rounding up the list for the standing class is Swiss skier, Michael Bruegger, the 31-year-old who is a familiar face on the circuit, having made his international debut in 1998.

He took silver at the 1998 Paralympic Games in Nagano, followed by a 12 year gap from competing in the Paralympics, returning in 2010 to win a downhill silver in Vancouver before collecting one silver and two bronze medals in this year's World Championships.

Topping the list for the sit-skiers is reigning world champion Claudia Loesch, the Austrian who will be making his third appearance in the Paralympics having taken two bronze medals at Turin 2006 followed by two golds at Vancouver 2010.

The 24-year-old took three gold medals at the IPC Skiing World Championships earlier in the year and finished second in the Alpine Skiing World Cup standings in 2012-2013.

Claudia Loesch takes gold in the womens super-G at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World ChampionshipsClaudia Loesch takes gold in the women's super-G at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships

The Austrian's biggest rival will be German sit-skier Anna Schaffelhuber, whom she lost out to in the World Cup standings last year.

Schaffelhuber claimed a gold medal in the slalom event of the 2013 IPC Skiing World Championships and was the first and only skier to cross the line in the first downhill race at the World Cup finals in Sochi on the same course being used for next year's Winter Games.

Takeshi Suzuki and Taiki Morii form part of a formidable Japanese contingent on the search for medals at Sochi 2014.

Suzuki looks to build on some superb form coming out of the 2012-2013 season which saw him win the men's slalom sitting overall trophy at the World Cup finals in Sochi, ahead of fellow countryman, Morii.

Morii won gold in the giant slalom, super combined and super-G events at the finals in Russia.

Slovakia's Henrietta Farkasova will be making her comeback this season following a crash in La Molina cut short her World Championships, after claiming gold in the women's slalom and downhill.

The 27-year-old visually impaired skier is a three-time champion from Vancouver 2010 in the super-G, super combined and giant slalom.

Farkasova's biggest rival is Russian Alexandra Frantseva, who picked up three world titles last year in La Molina, aided by Farkasova's absence.

Hoping to get amongst the medals in Sochi 2014 is British skier Kelly Gallagher, the first British athlete to win a medal of any sort at the IPC Skiing World Championships, a silver and bronze in 2011.

Kelly Gallagher, with guide Charlotte Evans, was the first British athlete to win a medal at the IPC Alpine Skiing World ChampionshipsKelly Gallagher, with guide Charlotte Evans, was the first British athlete to win a medal at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships

Following on from that, Gallagher has gone on to win two silvers and a bronze at this year's World Championship in La Molina and claimed her first World Cup title with a win in Sochi.

Finally, in the men's division comes Spain's reigning world champion Jon Santacana and Slovakia's Paralympic gold medallist Jakub Krako.

Santacana will hope to build on his success at the 2013 IPC Skiing World Championship which saw him claim three gold medals in the downhill, giant slalom and super-G events.

Krako will be looking to end his recent medal drought which saw him fail to pick up a single medal in the 2012-2013 season.

The three-time Paralympic champion will be hoping instead to pick up where he left off in Vancouver 2012 where he took home three gold medals in the slalom, giant slalom and super combined visually impaired events, as well as a silver in the super-G competition.

The road to Sochi has already begun for all 14 skiers on the list, with World Cup events already completed in the southern hemisphere in Coronet Peak and Mount Hutt, New Zealand and Thredbo in Australia.

The next major test will be the start of the 2013-2014 Europa Cup season in Pitztal, Germany, on December 15 until 17 with the next World Cup taking place in early January in Panorama, Canada.

The climax to the season will be the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup finals in Tarvisio, Italy from February 24 until 27, just 10 days before the start of Sochi 2014.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
Septemeber 2013: Paralympic champion Santacana sweating on Sochi fitness after World Cup injury