Gibraltar achieves ski glory in Austria
On Sunday the first finals of the Special Olympics World Games took place and in the thrilling alpine skiing finals Gibraltar has achieved its first ever Olympic ski medals, as far as known records show. Within minutes of each other on different slopes Samuel Santos won a hard fought silver in the intermediate Super G slalom event whilst young Francis Avellano won bronze in the novice event missing out on silver position by just a fraction of a second. In poor weather conditions with a lot of overnight rain the novice event was delayed by half an hour but was well worth the wait. Francis improved yet again on his divisioning time to record a personal best 31.85 seconds which won him the bronze medal and was just 3/10ths of a second behind the silver medal time.
Samuel meanwhile was putting in an equally impressive performance in the intermediate Super G slalom where he fought off a tough field of 6 in his division to come in second with a time of 1 minute 0.36 seconds. Both athletes were obviously delighted with their success in what was the first time Special Olympics Gibraltar has entered athletes in a skiing event and only a matter of months since both athletes took up skiing. The athletes received their medals later on Sunday in front of a large crowd in the town centre and both Samuel and Francis attracted a lot of media attention.
Due to the poor weather conditions the snowshoeing event was abandoned for the day. The floor ball competition continued in Graz where Gibraltar had just one game, losing 8:4 to Cyprus.
On Saturday night the games had been officially opened in an impressive opening ceremony in Schladming. After the traditional parading on of the athletes, when Special Olympics Gibraltar was accompanied by Minister Samantha Sacramento, there followed a spectacular display of song and dance with the highlight being the bringing of the Olympic torch accompanied by a team of skiers down the mountain which formed the backdrop to the stadium. After the raising of the Special Olympics flag and the lighting of the flame the crowd were entertained by international entertainers the highlight of which was singer Jason Mraz. Despite the persistent rain which pounded the open air stadium nobody left early and the evening was rounded off by a spectacular firework display.
Earlier in the initial stages of the World Games kicked off on Friday with the assessments and divisioning in each sport. In the floor ball Special Olympics Gibraltar lost heavily in their earlier matches with an unlucky first draw against world champions Sweden. They were declared winners in their fourth game against Cyprus who failed to show and they bounced back on Saturday with their first victory against Uruguay, winning 3 - 2. They then lost narrowly to Norway in their last game of divisioning.
Meanwhile Gibraltar's two alpine skiers were on the slopes on Friday for their initial assessments before doing their divisioning in the Super G slalom event on Saturday. In the intermediate competition Samuel Santos put in good times with a best time of just over 1 minute, whilst teammate Francis Avellano showed huge improvements each time he skied, knocking 10 seconds off his Friday time in the divisioning on Saturday.
In the snow shoe event divisioning Daniela Vinet performed well with a time of 25 seconds in the 25m whilst in the 100m race Nicholas Danino came in at 18.8 seconds, just ahead of Gino Francis at 24.7 seconds.
Update Courtesy Special Olympics Gibraltar