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Alpine Ski Racing World Cup – Early season roundup 2018/19

All the racing from November to New Year

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| Ian Huyton, Courchevel Reporter | Published
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Almost halfway through the ski racing season, we look back at the best of the action so far on the World Cup circuit, with the World Championships still to come. Like last year, the technical events have been dominated by two names – Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin – while the speed competition has been much more open.

As an odd-numbered year, 2019 is a World Championship year so the ski racing world is gearing up for Åre in Sweden in the middle of February. Meanwhile, there is a busy schedule of races to follow on the World Cup circuit throughout November, December and January. A World Championship win is a prestigious title, second only to an Olympic Medal as ski races go. But success in the overall World Cup circuit can be a more challenging achievement, requiring consistent performance throughout the whole season.

Wintry seasonal openers

This year’s Alpine ski racing World Cup got underway in a snowy Sölden on October 27th. The Austrian resort’s women’s GS was the only World Cup race of the month, as the men’s race the following day was cancelled due to bad weather. The cancelled race was replaced by an extra GS in Austria’s Saalbach-Hinterglemm December 20th. Tessa Worley of France moved up from third place after the first run to win after the second. Italy’s Federica Brignone came back from a summer knee injury to take second and last year’s overall winner, the American Mikaela Shiffrin, came in third.

The next races took place in Levi, Finland on November 17th-18th. Traditionally, the winners of the World Cup slalom in the Lapland resort are presented with a reindeer. Mikaela Shiffrin took first place, adding a third reindeer to her herd which live on a nearby farm. Last winter’s reindeer winner, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, took second and Austria’s Bernadette Schild third.

First men’s races

The men’s World Cup finally got underway the following day. Mirroring the women’s race, last year’s overall winner, Marcel Hirscher of Austria, added a third reindeer to his collection. Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway and Swedish Olympic champion André Myhrer completed the podium.

The action moved to Canada next, with the Lake Louise men’s downhill on Saturday November 24th. Another Austrian, Max Franz, claimed victory in the speed season opener followed by two Italians – Christof Innerhofer and Dominik Paris. Staying in Lake Louise, Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud won the first super-G of the season on the Sunday ahead of Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria and Mauro Caviezel of Switzerland. Over the same weekend, the Canadian speed specialist and twice World Champion, Erik Guay, announced his retirement after these races on home snow.

US technical events

Meanwhile, the women stayed with the technical events, heading to Killington in the USA for GS and slalom over November 24th-25th. Federica Brignone improved on her second place from the last GS, beating Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel and Austria’s Stephanie Brunner to take first. A day later, Mikaela Shiffrin took her second slalom win of the season before her home supporters. Petra Vlhova came in second and Frida Hansdotter of Sweden third.

Birds of Prey

Beaver Creek’s ‘Birds of Prey’ races opened on Friday, November 30th, with the downhill moved forward because of poor weather forecast for the weekend. The Swiss dominated with Beat Feuz winning, followed by Mauro Caviezel. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway came in third. Saturday’s super-G saw Max Franz gain a second win of the season ahead of Mauro Caviezel. The third-place spot was shared by Dominik Paris plus two Norwegians, Aksel Lund Svindal and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. A tie in ski racing is unusual enough, so a three-way tie is extremely rare indeed. In the third day of racing, Germany’s Stefan Luitz came back from injury to take his first World Cup win in the GS. Marcel Hirscher came in second and Switzerland’s Thomas Tumler gained the first podium of his career in third.

Lake Louise

The women’s tour headed to Canada’s Lake Louise for their weekend of speed racing. Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer had never won a World Cup race before winning the first downhill on Saturday, December 1st but she soon gained another victory in Sunday’s downhill. Swiss racer Michelle Gisin came second on Saturday and third on Sunday, while Kira Weidle of Germany came third on Saturday and Austrian Cornelia Huetter took Sunday’s second place. On Sunday evening, Mikaela Shiffrin became the first athlete to win in all six disciplines, taking first place in the super-G. Ragnhild Mowinckel came in second and Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany third.

Val d'Isère

Both men and women were scheduled to race in Val d’Isére, with the Criterium de la Premiere Neige men’s technical races followed by three days of women’s speed and combined racing a week later. In the end, due to bad weather, only one race took place out of the five on the calendar. On December 8th, the GS took place on the Face de Bellevarde in snow, wind and poor visibility. Marcel Hirscher set an unmatchable time in difficult conditions to win ahead of Henrik Kristofferson of Norway and Mats Olsson of Sweden. The women’s races were moved to in Val Gardena Gröden in Italy and the men’s slalom to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria before Christmas.

St. Moritz

Over in Switzerland, Mikaela Shiffrin continued her winning form, adding a second super-G victory on Saturday, December 8th ahead of Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. Shiffrin kept up her winning streak in Sunday’s parallel slalom, beating Petra Vhlova in the final of the parallel slalom. Swiss skier Wendy Holdener beat Austria’s Katharina Liensberger to take third.

Italian leg

Both tours moved to Italy next for speed races in Val Gardena Gröden. On December 14th, Aksel Lund Svindal took first place in the super-G, with Christof Innerhofer close behind and Kjetil Jansrud in third. A day later, another Norwegian, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, won the downhill ahead of Max Franz and Beat Feuz. A few days later, the same resort held the ladies’ speed races rescheduled from Val d’Isère. In the downhill on December 18th, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec finished first ahead of local Italian Nicol Delago and Austria's Ramona Siebenhofe. The Slovenian skier’s winning form continued in the super-G a day later, where she beat Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein to take a second win.

Staying in Italy, the men headed to Alta Badia on December 16th, where Marcel Hirscher continued to dominate. First, he notched up a sixth consecutive GS win ahead of Frenchmen Thomas Fanara and Alexis Pinturault. A day later, Hirscher won his first parallel GS, again beating two Frenchmen. Thibaut Favrot took second and Pinterault another third place.

Last races before Christmas

Hirscher had a rare dip in form as the tour moved to his native Austria, allowing Zan Kranjec to win the Saalbach-Hinterglemm GS on December 20th. Not only was this Kranjec’s first win on the circuit, it also made him the first Slovenian man ever to win a World Cup GS. Switzerland’s Loïc Meillard gained his first podium in second place. Mathieu Faivre finished third, with Hirscher back in sixth. Marcel Hirscher was back on top a day later, winning the slalom in the same resort. This 63rd career win made him the most successful Austrian skier of all time, and third in the world. Loïc Meillard gained another second place and Henrik Kristoffersen took third.

Meanwhile, the women headed to the French resort of Courchevel. Mikaela Shiffrin won both the GS on December 21st and the slalom on the 22nd, giving her an impressive 50 wins in eight seasons. Viktoria Rebensburg and Tessa Worley completed the GS podium. In the slalom, Petra Vlhova and Frida Hansdotter came in second and third to match the early season race in Killington.

In the final race before Christmas, the men moved back to Italy for the Night Slalom in Madonna di Campiglio on 22nd. After big names like Henrik Kristoffersen and Marcel Hirscher made mistakes, young Swiss skier Daniel Yule took the first win of his career. Austrians Marco Schwarz and Michael Matt came in second and third.

End of the year races

The men stayed in Italy after Christmas for two days of speed racing in Bormio, starting with the downhill on December 28th. The home crowd was happy to see two Italians take first and second spots as Dominik Paris finished ahead of Christof Innerhofer while Beat Feuz came third. Paris gained a second win in the super-G the following day with Matthias Mayer of Austria and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde close behind.

In the Austrian resort of Semmering, Petra Vhlova became the first Slovakian ever to win a GS on December 28th. Viktoria Rebensburg and Tessa Worley came in second and third. In the slalom on the 29th, the final race of the year, Mikaela Shiffrin took her 36th win in the discipline to officially become the most successful female slalom skier ever. Petra Vhlova followed up her success of the previous day with a solid second place and Wendy Holdener came in third.

New Year City Event

2019 opened with the City Event in Oslo. The Norwegian capital again hosted a successful parallel slalom on New Year’s Day. In the women’s race, Petra Vhlova continued her recent run of success, beating Mikaela Shiffrin in the final. Wendy Holdener beat Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson to take third in the head to head event.

Austria’s Marco Schwarz took his first world cup win in the men’s event, beating Dave Ryding in the final. Ryding’s second place matches his own and Great Britain’s best result, following on from his 2017 second place in the Kitzbuehel slalom. This makes him the most successful British ski racer of all time and the first to gain two World Cup podiums since Divina Galica gained two third places in the women’s Downhill in 1968.

Looking ahead, January will see plenty of racing in the runup to the World Championships. On February 5th, all eyes will be on Åre in Sweden for two weeks of racing across all the Alpine disciplines. This bi-annual event is the biggest in skiing after the Winter Olympics. Following on from the World Championships, World Cup racing will resume with the World Cup overall and discipline winners still to be decided in March.