The 80th-anniversary celebration of the Hahnenkamm races in Kitzbuehel, Austria is officially underway with a big win for Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud. The three-time super-G crystal globe champion had been running on a bit of a win drought, having not won a super-G race since March of 2018. In Kitzbuehel, the drought had last even longer – Jansrud had not won at the legendary venue since conquering the downhill in 2015. On Friday, the 34-year-old once again found “the harmony” in his skiing, claiming the win by 0.16 seconds over his teammate Aleksander Kilde and Austria’s Matthias Mayer.
In the 2019/20 season thus far, the 34-year-old had stepped onto the podium only once in the Val Gardena super-G. He’s had multiple top 10 finishes, but for a man who’s won multiple crystal globes, four Olympic medals, and three World Championship medals, top 10s are not what fans of the sport have come to expect of him. No matter. For Jansrud, his success is not necessarily measured by results. If he is not skiing to the level he wants to be skiing, he has enough self-confidence to know that the results will come if he continues to work hard in training and on race day. The Kitzbuehel super-G just so happened to be the race when all of the elements of his hard work finally came together.
“Alpine skiing is a sport where it’s about the hundredths, and there are so many parameters within which you can win or lose,” said Jansrud. “It’s a small little mistake in the gate and then you’re out. In some ways, you can lose confidence when you’re not performing the way you want over a certain period of time but you also know that this is a sport where you can slowly fight for the hundredths. For me, it’s trying to fight back to the harmony in my skiing. There’s been a little bit of struggle, but it’s never about the results, I’ll never be in the finish and be disappointed or angry that I’m not getting the victories that I am training for.”
“You want to win every race, and there’s a difference between coming into the finish with the green light in a normal race and in Kitzbuehel,” added Jansrud, laughing. “It’s a different story, and I’m just extremely happy that I did it. I’ll try and enjoy the day and the evening, and we’ll go on tomorrow with one of the most dangerous downhills of the season
His teammate, Kilde, had just as much to celebrate. The 27-year-old has been competing in multiple disciplines in the 2019/20 season, downhill, super-G, alpine combined, giant slalom, and parallel. Thus far he has had a couple of podiums and is currently sitting in third in the overall standings. As more of a speed guy, his current positioning is a bit of a surprise to him. Even more of a surprise was landing his first-ever podium at the legendary Hahnenkamm races, a feat the 2015/16 super-G crystal globe winner had yet to accomplish.
“Seeing the green light in Kitzbuehel, that’s always been a dream,” said Kilde. “It’s such a good feeling when you have that confidence, and coming into tomorrow’s downhill it’s not so bad to have second the day before. I’ve never had that feeling before, going into Kitzbuehel with good confidence. That’s really rare.”
To add to the fun for the Norwegians, long-time teammate and recently retired Aksel Lund Svindal made an appearance to cheer on his teammates. Svindal cruised around in an incognito grey get-up during the inspection and stuck around in the finish to see his teammates go one-two in an event that he, personally, has won three times in his career.
“We’re a small team, we are only three guys, and today we had two on the podium,” said Kilde. “It’s been some tougher races for us lately and losing Askel, we’ve had to put a whole new team together, and I think we deserved it a little bit today.”
Although their third teammate, Stian Saugestad, did not finish his run, both Jansrud and Kilde are confident in the direction the Attacking Vikings are headed.
“There’s are always be people who are looking at Aksel retiring and think ‘how will the guys deal with it’,” commented Jansrud. “But our confidence is high in the team and I know there’s so much talent in the team even though I’m getting older. Being on the podium with Aleks is a good sign for Norway, and I think it’s also a good sign for Aksel because it means he doesn’t need to have a bad feeling and he can just enough us.”
Svindal was not the only celebrity ski racer guest appearance. USA’s Lindsey Vonn also was present in the crowd, cheering on the Norwegians who she came to call friends over the years, after spending hours on end training with the team. Vonn did the honors of passing out awards and even stopped to ‘photo-bomb’ the podium picture after her job was done.
Mayer also had a great day, tying for second with Kilde. As Jansrud commented in the post-race press conference, Austria is Kitzbuehel, and Kitzbuehel is Austria. To podium at the venue as an Austrian athlete is to add to the legacy the nation has built at the venue over the ages. Of the course of 80 years, the Austrian men have had 478 podiums in Kitzbuehel, 479 including Mayer’s finish on Friday. They’ve won 51 times, and nine of those wins have been in the super-G.
“We risk a lot, we did the job really good today,” said Mayer. “Every home race, every race in Austria, is really great and Kitzbuehel is something even more special. You can see today there’s a big crowd here in the finish area and also at the start, even during training runs. It’s never easy because there are so many good racers here.”
Travis Ganong led the American men in the points, finishing 10th overall. Ganong has had a few strong finishes thus far this season, a sixth-place finish in Beaver Creek, and two eighth-place finishes in Lake Louise and Bormio. To land in the top 10 in Kitzbuehel tells Ganong that he is headed in the right direction as he heads into Saturday’s downhill.
“I always love coming back to Kitzbuehel because it’s a really fun hill. You don’t have to worry about little funky sections, you just ski fast and well,” said Ganong. “The conditions are super forgiving this year. Of all my years here, it’s probably the easiest snow I’ve ever skied on. It allows us to take more risks. The super-G is kind of like a warm-up, especially for the downhill here, so if you can finish solid in the super-G, it’s nice to take that momentum into the next day.”
His teammates, Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Steven Nyman finished 26th and 30th respectively.
Next, the men will take on the infamous Streif, in the biggest show of the speed season, the Kitzbuehel downhill. The first man pushes out of the gate on Saturday at 11:30 am CET.
- 1. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR): 1:14.61
- 2. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR): +0.16
- 2. Matthias Mayer (AUT): 0.16
- 4. Mauro Caviezel (SUI): +0.49
- 5. Mattia Casse (ITA): +0.53
- 6. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT): +0.79
- 7. Beat Feuz (SUI): +0.86
- 8. Andreas Sander (GER): +0.99
- 9. Alexi Pinturault (FRA): +1.14
- 10. Travis Ganong (USA): +1.15
For full race results, click here.