Hallat skis his best in Sochi 

Local skier earns career-best finish in third trip to Paralympic Games

click to enlarge best yet Sea to Sky skier Matt Hallat competes in the men's standing slalom in Sochi on March 13. Hallat finished sixth, his best result in three trips to the Paralympics.
  • best yet Sea to Sky skier Matt Hallat competes in the men's standing slalom in Sochi on March 13. Hallat finished sixth, his best result in three trips to the Paralympics.

Matt Hallat headed to Sochi with the goal of skiing his absolute best on his sport's biggest stage.

He didn't end up adding to Canada's total of eight para-alpine medals, and he only ended up finishing one race. But the 30-year-old Sea to Sky resident returned from Russia this week feeling like his third trip to the Paralympic Winter Games was a great success.

"I feel much more fulfilled coming home this time," said Hallat. "I knew I gave it everything I had. I left it all on the hill and I'm happy with that."

Hallat raced to a sixth-place finish in the men's standing slalom on March 13, a career-best at the Paralympics. He laid down two impressive runs to finish 4.84 seconds back of Russian winner Alexey Bugaev, and just 0.33 seconds from fourth place.

"I could have four-tenths of a second faster and been fourth, but really, I could have had two perfect runs and wouldn't have been able to catch third," said Hallat. "That's just the nature of the game, the nature of our system, and that's fine. I'm happy with what I got out of it."

Hallat, a below-the-knee amputee, didn't complete his super combined slalom run, and fell metres shy of the super-G finish in Sochi. But he felt as though his super-G performance was excellent, and with good reason.

"I actually made it the furthest of every one-legged skier, which was two gates short of the finish line," he said with a laugh. "It was such a challenging, demanding course. Even though I did go out, I was very happy with how I performed, and I took that into slalom."

Whistler-based sit skier Caleb Brousseau wasn't able to finish any of his remaining races after claiming a super-G bronze medal on the opening weekend of the Games.

Hallat had about a dozen supporters with him in Sochi, and said sharing the week with family made the whole experience extra special. It might have been the last time he'll get to do that at a Paralympics.

Hallat said he'll race the world championships at Panorama next winter but is unsure on his career plans beyond that.

"The reason for me going to these Games was for me to perform my best on the biggest stage, and I feel very content that I did that," he said.

In the meantime, he'll be back home this week to close out the season at the Sport Chek Canadian Para-Alpine Championships (read more on page 63).

In Sochi, the para-alpine squad captured eight medals in all, including super combined gold and downhill silver from Josh Dueck, Brousseau's bronze, a gold and two bronze from visually-impaired skier Mac Marcoux and bronze medals from sit skier Kimberly Joines and visually-impaired veteran Chris Williamson.

Mosher disappointed with finish

Though Hallat was able to leave Sochi feeling he had performed his best, Whistler's Tyler Mosher didn't share that sentiment after a 12th-place finish in the Paralympic debut of snowboarding.

The 41-year-old spent years lobbying to get the sport into the Games, and went there thinking a top-five finish was within reach. But with no factoring system, Mosher felt he was at a disadvantage compared to below-the-knee amputees, and didn't put down the clean runs he was capable of.

"The course wasn't set to my abilities, unfortunately, for someone who's 40 per cent paralyzed below the waist," said Mosher, who slipped up on two of his three runs and wound up 13 seconds back of the podium. "I tried my best, but unfortunately I didn't have my best runs... I'm tragically upset about it.

"But to have the opportunity to participate in the first-ever Paralympic Games (with snowboarding), I should be happy with the process and proud of what I've done with the sport."

The 2009 para-snowboard world champ said he thought the sport did a tremendous job introducing itself on the world's biggest stage, and added that he was thrilled to see teammate and fellow Whistler rider John Leslie finish seventh.

"He's been very consistent, he's been around that placing throughout the season," said Mosher, a para-Nordic competitor at the 2010 Games. "It's great to see that he was able to do so well, and be calm, cool and collected in his first-ever Paralympic Games."

Rossland's Ian Lockey finished 21st in the men's event, while Calgary's Michelle Salt was ninth in the women's race.

Mosher said he's undecided on his future in para-snowboard racing for now, but plans to remain involved in the sport nationally and internationally, whether as an athlete or otherwise. He added that he's appreciated everyone in his hometown who has backed him in his Paralympic pursuits.

"I really want to thank everybody in the community of Whistler for their support," he said.

Russia wins medal table handily

The hosts had a whopping 80 medals by the end of the Games, and their 30 gold was more than any other country's total medal count. Ukraine had 25 medals to be the overall runner-up, and Germany's nine golds were second-best.

Canada won the third-most golds, with seven, and the fourth-highest medal total, with 16.

Brian McKeever accounted for three of those golds in para-Nordic competition, bringing the total number of Paralympic victories in his storied career to 10, while Nordic sit skier Chris Klebl won a gold of his own in the 10 km race. Mark Arendz earned silver and bronze medals in men's standing biathlon, while Canada's wheelchair curling crew claimed gold and the sledge hockey squad won bronze.

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