By Tom Degun

Melissa_PerrineJanuary 17 - Visually-impaired skier Melissa Perrine (pictured) has been celebrating making history by becoming the first Australian female ever to win an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championship medal in Alpine skiing.

The New South Wales star delivered a fearless run to claim silver in the women's downhill in Sestriere, Italy.

Last year's Paralympic Games silver medallist Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia claimed the world title with a time of 1:28.36 while Perrine finished second in 1:40.50 to push Russian Alexandra Frantseva into third in 1:41.87.

"I'm really happy with how I skied today," said Perrine.

"The preparations were good, I worked together with my coaches and guide (Andy Bor), to get my confidence levels up a bit and it turned out really well."

Perrine's performance builds on the growing stature of Paralympic Alpine skiing for Australian women.

At the Paralympic Games in Vancouver last March, Jessica Gallagher became the first Australian woman to ever win a Paralympic Winter medal.

Before Gallagher claimed bronze in the women's vision-impaired slalom, the 24 medals won by Australia at the Winter Paralympics had all been won by men.

Following the women's action at Sestriere, it was the men's turn to tackle the slope that played host to the alpine skiing events at the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The gold was won, unsurprisingly, by German Winter Paralympic legend Gerd Schoenfelder who picked up his second world title of the week with a time of 1:21.84.

The 40-year-old, a 16-time Winter Paralympic gold medallist, also claimed gold on the first day of competition on Sunday (January 16) in the men's standing event.

France's Vincent Gauthier-Manuel again finished behind the German in 1:22.08 to pick up his second silver while Switzerland's Thomas Pfyl made it an exact repeat of the podium places from day one as he claimed bronze in 1:22.96.

In downhill racing, vision-impaired athletes reach speeds in excess of 100km per hour while relying on voice commands from their sighted guides, who ski just metres in front and help direct them down the course.

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