France’s Maxime Montaggioni retained his men’s SB-UL banked slalom title as action begun today at the World Para Snowboard Championships in Pyha in Finland.
Montaggioni, injured during training last year's Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang and who missed out on competing at the Games, sped down his first run in 50.05sec at the Polar Madness venue.
"I’m very happy to be back," he said.
"Unfortunately, I would prefer to win the Paralympics, but it’s good for my confidence to win here today and I will try to get the gold for snowboard-cross because I’m very motivated."
The goal for Montaggioni’s second run was to beat China's Sun Qi’s time as the fastest across all classes.
But with the wind picking up and snow accumulating, the course became more challenging.
"After my first run I had a good feeling and my coach said okay now you have to beat the first time of all the categories," Montaggioni said.
"I didn’t succeed but I [did well], so it was a good feeling because it was snowing."
Austria’s Patrick Mayrhofer, the Pyeongchang 2018 silver medallist, could not catch Montaggioni and took the silver medal in 51.43.
Italy’s Jacopo Luchini came third in 51.84.
The 19-year-old Sun continued his impressive season, going from finishing outside the top-10 at Pyeongchang 2018 to becoming the men’s banked slalom SB-LL2 world champion.
He won in style, clocking 49.95 to be the only rider to go sub-50.
As Great Britain's Owen Pick rounded the last bank and tucked low to increase his speed, he appeared close to beating Sun’s time.
But he was 0.18 seconds short and had to settle for the silver medal.
Japan’s Shinji Tabuchi completed the podium in 51.16.
After a pair of silver medals from the 2017 World Championships, followed by a silver and bronze from Pyeongchang 2018, The Netherlands' Lisa Bunschoten had been waiting for her big breakthrough.
It finally came when she won the women’s SB-LL2 today, securing her first major gold medal.
The prize was hers to lose, as the 23-year-old had dominated her category throughout the season.
The closest to Bunschoten’s time of 55.73 was Canada’s Sandrine Hamel, who was 3.83 seconds behind, followed by Spain’s Astrid Fina Paredes, 4.52 seconds back.
The men’s SB-LL1 event was a thrilling battle that saw the United States' Mike Schultz steal the gold medal from compatriot Noah Elliott with a stunning final run.
Elliot sat in first place, putting pressure on the rest of the field to beat 51.21.
Schultz surprised himself when 50.63 showed up, giving a small celebration as he waited anxiously for the reigning Paralympic champion to come down the course.
Elliott could not match his compatriot’s speed, giving Schultz, the Pyeongchang 2018 silver medallist, his first world title.
Reigning world champion Chris Vos of The Netherlands claimed the bronze medal in 51.87.
France’s Cécile Hernandez was the undisputed winner of the women’s SB-LL1 category in 57.94.
It was a bittersweet feeling as her toughest competitor, America's Brenna Huckaby, was not competing due to injury.
Liu Yunhai of China was the silver medallist in the two-competitor event in 1:27.15.
Pang Qiaorong led a Chinese one-two finish in the women’s SB-UL category, taking the gold medal in 57.91.
Fellow countrywoman Lu Jiangli was the runner-up in 58.31, while Poland’s Monika Aleksandra Kotzian came third in 1:01.11.
Competition in Pyha is due to continue on Saturday (March 30) with the snowboard-cross events.