The annual Snow Queen Trophy races in Zagreb, Croatia, have become a staple on the World Cup tour in recent years with the small eastern European venue attracting large crowds. The unassuming Sljeme slope just outside the city groomed the likes of Janica and Ivica Kostelic as they prepared for World Cup and Olympic success and now plays host to the fastest slalom skiers in the world.
Although the stop began as a women’s tour exclusive (hence the Snow Queen moniker), the race has become a coveted victory on the men’s tour as well with some titanic battles taking place under the lights over the years.
This year’s edition of the men’s Snow Queen Trophy came down to the wire as Austrian superstar Marcel Hirscher captured his 50th career victory, matching Italian great Alberto Tomba on the all-time World Cup wins list. Hirscher seems to have found another gear in his skiing this season, taking slalom and giant slalom races right and left and putting himself firmly in the driver seat for yet another overall title.
“I remember back to last year’s January races where I ended up in second position three times in a row with three, six, and nine hundredths of a second,” Hirscher reflected after the race. “Always in the second position and people were telling me, ‘Ah, it will come back sometime,’ and they were right. In these last races I was the lucky one so it’s good to be me at the moment.”
Hirscher was joined on the podium by fellow Austrian Michael Matt in second, a slim 0.05 seconds shy of the win with Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen just behind in third, 0.11 seconds off of Hirscher for an incredibly tight podium. Kristoffersen looked to have laid down the time to beat in the second run before Hirscher and Matt were able to squeak in front of the young Attacking Viking. Letting his emotions get the best of him, Kristoffersen was visibly upset as the final racers finished their runs.
“First of all, I have to say that I think skiing-wise, second run I was skiing really good,” he explained. “It’s a little bit disappointing to do that mistake on the flat. If you watch the TV, you can definitely see that there is a mistake and when it’s that flat you lose so much time. I’m not disappointed with being third. I’m disappointed by doing a stupid mistake, and that’s the difference between winning a race and being third.”
It was also a step in the right direction for the American slalom team as Mark Engel managed to score his first World Cup points of the season in 24th, conquering a demon or two from last year’s race that saw him sitting in third place after the first run but unable to finish, crashing mere feet from the finish line.
“I sort of felt the pressure to finish here today because our team is going to run out of World Cup spots unless we score more points so I went to ski solid and got to the flats and then I started to push it,” Engel said. “I’m really happy that my best split was down the last pitch which has troubled me before. I took away from that experience (last year) only positives. That was the best race I ever did and it was all about letting go of being afraid to fail, letting go of expectations and just trying to do my best. I’m just gonna keep trying to do that.”
For the rest of the Americans, veteran David Chodounsky did not finish his first run after setting the eighth-fastest intermediate and straddling shortly afterwards. Hig Roberts and AJ Ginnis also did not finish with Robby Kelley and Michael Ankeny not qualifying for the second run.
Looking ahead, the men’s tour now heads to Adelboden, Switzerland, Jan. 6-7 as the Classics begin.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Michael Matt (AUT) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Luca Aerni (SUI) – Salomon/ Salomon/ Salomon
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head / Head / Head
- Dave Ryding (GBR) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
- Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR) – Voelkl / Marker / Dalbello
- Andre Myhrer (SWE) – Head / Head / Head
- Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer / Fischer /Fischer
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|80||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL||1:05.00||0|
|76||380292||ZRNCIC DIM Natko||1986||CRO||1:01.54||0|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|20||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||0|
|Did not start 1st run|