Skiier Toby Kane picked up bronze in the Super Combined event that took a grueling three days to complete due to rain interruptions. The 27-year-old medical student raced down Sochi’s Rosa Khutor mountain on a single ski – the only medal-winner to use a single ski, rather than prosthesis, in all his events.
Toby also picked up a second accolade at the Games, but it wasn’t a medal. The Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award is presented every Paralympics to one male and one female athlete who best exemplify the Paralympic spirit by overcoming adversity. This year it was awarded to Toby.
“He’s an outstanding person, not just an outstanding athlete,” said Australian Paralympic Committee CEO, Jason Hellwig.
“When you think of the words that define the Paralympic movement – courage, determination – there’s no athlete that embodies them better than Toby.”
Meanwhile, Jess Gallagher brought home Australia’s second medal, scoring a hard-earned bronze in the Giant Slalom. It was a back-to-back victory for Jess, who also scored a Slalom bronze in Vancouver, 2010. Jess attributed her win to her dedication to the sport after resuming training following her competition at the London 2012 Paralympics, and to teaming up with her new sighted guide,Christian Geiger, himself a former able-bodied champion.
“It’s easy to see how difficult this sport is,” said Jess. “Just one tiny mistake and it’s all over. So it feels really great to put down two good runs and win that medal.”
The second accolade came to 14-year-old snowboarder, Ben Tudhope, the youngest of the 550 athletes at this year’s games. He was chosen as Australia’s youngest-ever Paralympian flag bearer after a great games experience that saw him placed in the top ten for each of his events.
“It’s amazing. This whole experience – the atmosphere in the Village, getting a top-10 in the snowboard cross – and now this,’’ Ben said. “I’m over the moon, this is out of dreams.”
While there was plenty to celebrate at this year’s games, there were also some bitter disappointments. After clocking the second-fastest time in qualifying rounds, Melissa Perrine and her guide Andy Bor were disqualified from competition after duct-taping a cardboard visor to the top of her helmet in an attempt to protect from glaring lights overhead.
“Ski racing – there’s some high highs and some low lows,’’ Andy said. “Today Mel has come out and done her best, as she has for every single run.”
Though the Paralympics is over for another four years, the team is already planning its 2018 campaign in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“We’d be lying if we didn’t say we wanted a gold medal – we put ourselves in a position to do that with several top-five finishes,” said Jason. “I tell you what, we’re absolutely determined to get one in four years’ time.”