|Visually impaired Auckland skier Sue
Gardiner is skiing strongly, and in good
form leading up to the World Ski
Championships for the Disabled, which begin
in Anzčre, Switzerland this Thursday
Along with fellow New
Zealand team members Mathew Butson
(Invercargill), Rachael Battersby and Steve
Bayley (both Canterbury), and coach Patrick
Cooper, Gardiner and her guide (husband
David) arrived in Anzčre last Saturday.
Bayley, New Zealand's 1999 Skier of the
Year and 1999 Disabled Skier of the Year, is
a below knee amputee and will race in the
LW4 class (using a prosthesis and two skis),
while Battersby, an arm amputee, races in
the LW6/8 division (two skis, with one pole)
and Butson, a below knee and arm amputee,
races in the LW9 class.
The team has been training in Winter
Park, Colorado, over the last three months
in preparation for the world champs. All
four skiers recorded wins in their
respective classes at the recent Huntsman
Cup event, providing a good indicator of
their form leading up to the world champs.
Gardiner, a rehabilitation teacher with
the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind,
has been visually impaired since birth and
skis in the B2 class. Her condition,
achromotopsia, means her vision is blurred,
she is extremely sensitive to light and has
difficulty discerning colours. Unable to see
the gates during ski races, she has a guide
who skis in front of her and calls each turn
and changes in terrain.
Prior to meeting David Gardiner, her
sporting involvement was limited. The two
skied together at Nagano, and were married
in May, 1998.
While expecting strong competition from
Spanish, Czechoslovakian and Austrian
skiers, Gardiner is aiming for top three
placings across the four disciplines -
slalom, giant slalom, downhill and super G.
"Training has been going well. We have
only had a short time in Winter Park, but
skiing strongly," Gardiner says.
A member of the New Zealand disabled ski
team since 1996, Gardiner skied well at her
first major international event, the 1998
Nagano Winter Paralympics, where she placed
fourth in downhill, super G and giant
The team's most experienced international
representative, Butson - a below knee and
arm amputee - already has three Nagano
Paralympic golds and a silver to his credit.
The world champs kick off on Friday with
the women's downhill, followed by the men's
downhill on Saturday.
Around 25 international teams, comprising
more than 200 skiers in total, are
contesting the events, which are run over 11
classes covering a range of disabilities.
Skiers race over one run each in the speed
events (downhill and super G), and combine
their best times over two runs for the
technical races (slalom and giant slalom).