Schladming’s Night Race is to slalom as the Hahnenkamm is to downhill. Loud and raucous, tens of thousands of ski-mad fans descend on the Austrian town for a mid-week race and party like it’s a Friday night in the city.
There was a lot to celebrate this year as Austrian sensation Marcel Hirscher won his 54th career World Cup and tied Herman Maier for second most wins all-time for men, now only trailing Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark for the men who has 86 wins for the most all-time, man or woman.
The podium on Tuesday night in Schladming was a repeat of last Sunday’s in Kitzbuehel as Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen and Switzerland’s Daniel Yule once again finished second and third, respectively.
To say that Hirscher and Kristoffersen have been in a league of their own this season in slalom just wouldn’t quite do justice to the dominance those two competitors have shown in the buildup to next month’s Olympics. Although Hirscher’s winning margin was only 0.39 seconds, it was a massive 2.13 seconds ahead of Yule in third.
“I think we’re both pushing the limits so hard now that it’s even at a new level compared to last year and the year before,” said Kristoffersen. “It’s really cool to be part of that.”
The decibel level in the Planai stadium during Hirscher’s second run was off the charts as the Austrian managed to calm his nerves enough to walk away with yet another victory.
“I think this was my 10th time that I am racing here and I never skied during this loudness and craziness,” Hirscher said. “It was really tough to keep focused. I knew this was good with the green lights on the arch, you can see it, if it’s lighting green then you are good. I kept on pushing and pushing and finally I managed it but wow, what a day.”
Does Hirscher think about the records he has been setting of late? Six overall titles in a row and a tie for second on the all-time men’s wins list is certainly nothing to balk at. For him, it’s all been about handling the pressure of others speculating on whether the star would live up to all the hype.
“If I reach those steps then I am very interested in this,” he said. “Before the steps, it is just talking and blah, blah. If you are able to manage this and able to reach it then it is something very, very, special. It is an underline under six big crystal globes.”
The celebrations were marred in part by some on-hill shenanigans by fans who threw snowballs at Kristoffersen during his second run. Despite coming down with a commanding lead, Kristoffersen was furious in the finish, voicing his frustrations at the cameras and FIS officials in the corral.
“99.9% of the ski racing fans are amazing,” commented Hirscher on the incident. “It’s a shame that the 0.01% do these things.”
“I was a little pissed,” Kristoffersen said after the race. “I think it’s a little unfair to throw snowballs at somebody when they’re skiing, and if you get hit in the face it’s dangerous so that’s not cool, but that’s life. Today, Marcel was just better. I think I did two good runs but today he was just better. I think we’re both pushing the limits so hard now that it’s even at a new level compared to last year and the year before. It’s really cool to be part of that.”
Young Frenchman Clement Noel continued to impress with his second top-10 in as many races with a 6th place on Tuesday night. Starting the season well outside of the top 30, the 20-year-old is certainly a talent to keep an eye on for the future.
It was another tough day for the Americans as Mark Engel was the lone athlete to make it to the second run. Unfortunately, Engel straddled the second gate of his second run and hiked to finish the rest of the course, ultimately finishing in 26th place but too far out to score any World Cup points. Engel is also on the bubble for Olympic team selections, which will be announced this week.
“I’m a bit bummed that that happened,” Engel said. “I was amped up and excited to go, just too early. I asked my ski man in the start to make the skis a bit sharper because it was icier that run, that and I was pretty amped up. I feel like I’ve done my best and it’s up to the powers that be to decide who’s the best person to send so I trust the committee and our coaches for who to send.”
David Chodounsky straddled midway down his first run for a DNF and AJ Ginnis, Nolan Kasper, and Hig Roberts did not qualify for a second run.
The men now head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, for downhill and giant slalom races Jan. 27-28.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Daniel Yule (SUI) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Andre Myhrer (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
- Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Clement Noel (FRA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Stefano Gross (ITA) – Voelkl/Tecnica/Marker
- Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Jonathan Nordbotten (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|23||19||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||51.69||57.97||1:49.66||+6.10||42.41||8|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|76||960300||GOUTT Yohan Goncalves||1994||TLS||1:05.07||0|
|74||170151||DYRBYE NAESTED Casper||1996||DEN||57.74||0|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|73||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL||0|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|