Paralympics: Hall ready for title at Sochi

By David Leggat

Kiwi Paralympic champion believes it's harder to stay at the top than to get there.

Adam Hall will be looking to better his silver in Panorama, Canada, when he competes in the Super G Class at Sochi. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Hall will be looking to better his silver in Panorama, Canada, when he competes in the Super G Class at Sochi. Photo / Getty Images

Adam Hall relishes the pressure of defending a Paralympic title, and yesterday showed his preparations for Sochi next month are well on track.

The Otago athlete, who won the slalom standing gold medal in Vancouver four years ago, took silver in the Super G class at a World Cup event in Panorama, Canada, yesterday, where most of the leading candidates for the Sochi podium were racing. He clocked 1min 17.66, 1.6s behind Austrian Mattias Lanzinger.

Hall will contest the Super G, Super combined and slalom in Sochi from March 7-16. He's ranked equal first for slalom and sixth for the Super G. Some athletes shrivel under the weight of expectation when the spotlight is upon them. Hall will be a marked man in Russia, but it sits lightly on him.

"I find it more a support than about pressure and expectations," Hall said.

"It's nothing new and it's part of the environment. We're not just making up numbers and the only pressure is what you put on yourself."

Hall is part of a three-strong New Zealand team for the Paralympics, with New Plymouth's Corey Peters - who was 13th in the sitting Super G yesterday, after posting a DNF in the giant slalom 24 hours earlier - and snowboarder Carl Murphy.

Hall, who was born with spina bifida, subscribes to the old line that it's harder to stay at the top than get there. But the 26-year-old is a believer in athletes choosing the moments to perform at their optimum, rather than try and back up day after day.

"It's about picking your fights and knocking them out when they come, and that's every four years," he said, referring to the Winter Olympics schedule.

"For some people, in between Olympics they are quite successful. But they'll turn up to the Olympics and freak out, and not perform as they should."

Sochi will be Hall's third Winter Olympics. In Torino in 2006 he gained valuable experience and "saw what the best guys in the world were like. I think that paid off in Vancouver. Sochi is no different, another Olympics and I'm coming in with more experience."

He believes he's skiing as well as he ever has.

"We've made some huge changes from last season. I'm a lot stronger mentally and physically and with a few more days' training under our belt I strongly believe we can be where we want to be."

Hall knows who his main rivals will be in Sochi. This isn't a sport of bolters coming from nowhere. They're all on the radar, mainly from European countries. Hall is the odd man out in a sense, too.

"They're the born then ski to school type," he said of the Europeans. "People come to New Zealand and see where I was brought up on the Taieri in Dunedin, then travel three and a half hours to Wanaka [to ski] and they ask 'how the hell did you go ski racing?' They're brought up on it."

Which simply adds to the scale of what Hall has produced. Don't be surprised if another layer of outstanding achievement goes into his CV in March.

Hall and Peters head to Copper Mountain in Colorado for another World Cup this weekend.

The lineup

* New Zealand have three athletes, skiers Adam Hall (Otago) and Corey Peters, and snowboarder Carl Murphy (both New Plymouth), contesting the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, from March 7-16.

* Hall is defending Paralympic slalom champion from Vancouver 2010. Peters and Murphy are competing in their first Olympics.

- NZ Herald

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