A new set of ladies rose onto the podium Wednesday, March 11th at FIS Alpine World Juniors in the giant slalom. A total of 98 women were on the start list for the giant-slalom and Sara Rask of Sweden was able to rise to the top. Neja Dvornik of Slovenia skied into second and Kaja Norbye of Norway wrapped up the podium in third.
After the men’s alpine combined cancelation, the weather turned around for the women in time for the super G. The snow hardened up, allowing for races to get back underway in Narvik. This was a relief for the series after the unfortunate cancellation for the men’s alpine combined the day prior.
The first run had challenging turn shape on the upper pitch, but the women were able to let their skis run and punch the gates through the middle corridor and bottom of the hill. Rask came down the first run, wearing bib nine with a time that established her lead by 0.29 in front of Norway’s Norbye. Hanna Aronsson Elfman of Sweden was sitting in third after the first run, 0.37 behind Rask.
For Rask, this is her fourth appearance at Alpine Junior Worlds. She has competed on the World Cup circuit and this season she has done well on the European Cup circuit with a few wins under her belt. She had confidence coming into this series from her races and training this season.
Rask touched base on her confidence level, “I knew I was in good shape and that my skiing is fast enough,” she continued, “to do it (win) on race day, now that feels amazing.”
Coming into the second run, Rask needed to ski tactically smart, but knew she had to gun it in order to keep her lead as the other women were in striking distance. Before she came down the hill Neja Dvornik established a substantial lead over the field, 0.75 in front. This hefty lead pushed Norbye and Aronsson Elfman back on the leaderboard. Rask came down the rhythmic course on fire. She was fought panel-to-panel and tucked her way across the finish line with an overall time of 2:04.91, which was 0.48 ahead of Dvornik. Dvornik won the second run, but Rask came out on top with her overall time. This was a thrilling day of racing for the Junior athletes.
“This win was an amazing start to my Junior World’s and now I feel that I can just enjoy everything left of this championship,” Rask said. “I will do my best in the slalom and do everything to be as fast as possible. I want to enjoy the race day.”
Before the GS, the series has been dominated by the speedy Austrian duo of Lisa Grill and Magdalena Egger. The pair earned gold and silver in the downhill, super G, and alpine combined events. Egger was on a hot streak, winning three consecutive golds, a rare occurrence at Alpine World Juniors, particularly for an athlete starting towards the back of the pack. For instance, in the alpine combined event, Egger started bib 41 and somehow was able to find the speed to win the race. This was an “unbelievable” and “exciting” performance for the young athlete.
“I had no expectations coming into Worlds to win those races,” said Egger. “The last couple of weeks have been a lot of ups and downs and it was sometimes mentally tough, but of course, it was a goal to win the medal here. I don’t think any of us would be here if that wasn’t a goal. It is every athlete’s goal that stands in the start gate here.”
Egger and Grill, unfortunately, were not able to put together two GS runs for a fourth podium finish. Nonetheless, Egger was satisfied with her overall experience on top of winning three medals.
“Besides racing, it is really beautiful to be here in Norway,” Egger said. “The landscape is so beautiful. You can see the ocean and that is something very unique in this world. I think now this is one of the best places to be for Junior Worlds and that is super incredible and exciting. We are so happy to be here and having a nice time.”
Two of the U.S. Ski Team’s athletes skied into the top 15. AJ Hurt was the first athlete on the board for the U.S. in 12th with an overall time of 2:07.53. Keely Cashman finished 14th overall. Nicola Rountree-Williams just missed the top 15, racing into 16th. Katie Hensien and Olivia Holm skied strong and made a noteworthy first appearance at Alpine Junior Worlds.
The women will be making their way back onto the hill on Friday, March 13th for the slalom races.