Just over a year ago, Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was training in Pitztal, Austria, when she crashed and suffered an undisplaced tibial fracture in her right leg. The injury sidelined her for six weeks, depriving her of valuable training time. However, the German was able to return to racing by the time the World Cup got to Killington, Vt., just two months later. While she had a strong 2016-17 season, she was not able to snag a win.
Rebensburg broke the pattern on Saturday, taking the win in the first race of the 2017-18 season at Soelden, Austria. This marked Rebensburg’s second win at the venue and first time racing there since 2015. The first time she won was back in 2010 about eight months after the German took home Olympic gold in giant slalom at Whistler, Canada.
“I mean, to be at the very top is always something special, and then directly at the first race of the season, it’s, like I said, a brilliant start,” Rebensburg says. “I wouldn’t put it too high because I mean it’s like four weeks until the next race, so many girls were not competing here. There are many other fast girls, so I need to keep pushing and training the next weeks and then it actually really starts in four weeks for me.”
Not only did Rebensburg have the advantage of starting at Soelden nine times previously, but she was also able to train on the race slope earlier in October.
“…I always feel that it’s a huge difference than in the race,” she says about training on the race slope. “I mean, the conditions are different, many racers are skiing through the course and for sure, it’s not bad to ski it. I made it just one day. I had the chance to do it more often, but I just said, ‘Okay. One time is enough.’ Like you said, this is my ninth time, I think, here today, so many runs I’ve made down the slope here.”
The Olympic champion shared the podium with fellow ’80s babies, Tessa Worley and Manuela Moelgg, who took second and third place respectively. The Frenchwoman was just 0.14 seconds shy of the win, making her maiden appearance on the Soelden podium, while the Italian was 0.53 seconds off the pace.
As fans know, age is not the number that matters on the World Cup. It’s the time at the finish line and Italian tech skier Moelgg reinforced that idea on Saturday. Born in 1983, she was the oldest skier on the the ladies’ start list—about 15 years older than the youngest athletes on the roster. While many athletes would have retired by her age, it looks like Moelgg’s career might be trending upward.
The Italian went over five years without a World Cup podium result from 2011 until 2016. Last season, she ended that cycle with a third-place finish in the GS in Semmering, Austria, and she had more top 10 results last season than she had earned in years. It appears that the experience of 16 World Cup seasons has helped her perfect her setup and could account for this resurgence. Moelgg also manages to ski fast thanks to pure passion.
“I love this sport,” she explains. “I have a lot of heart, and I try to give my best every time and I feel in good shape. I have no pain and so, I do what I can. I like this.”
Moelgg led the Italian team, which was dominant in GS last season and will be very competitive internally when it comes to the limited Olympic spots, making the result even more sweet.
“Because we are strong team, it’s important to stay on the podium in the beginning for the Olympics, so this is my big dream and I try. I hope I can do it.”
The rest of her teammates had a bit of a tough start to the season. Sofia Goggia and Marta Bassino, who both had podium potential, did not finish. Irene Curtoni was the second fastest Italian in 14th place followed by Junior World Champion Laura Pirovano in 19th and Elena Curtoni in 27th.
On the American side, Mikaela Shiffrin was the lone top 30 finisher, coming in fifth place.
“I feel really good with where my GS is at, and I’m pretty disappointed because I didn’t really make any turns today like I know that I can, but I guess that’s how it goes,” Shiffrin explains. “I always really have a lot of respect for these girls, who especially in the second run if it’s bumpy at all, they just still ski so hard and I’m impressed by that and like I said, I have so much respect for it. I can’t wait for the time when I figure that out, so I can do it to.”
Surprise entrant Lindsey Vonn also pushed out of the start gate on Saturday, but wasn’t able to get in the top 30 and earn a second run. Independent U.S. racer Megan McJames and current NCAA athlete Foreste Peterson–who made her World Cup debut–also did not qualify for a second run.
Racing action continues on Sunday with the men’s World Cup opener.
1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli / Lange / Marker
2. Tessa Worley (FRA) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
4. Manuela Moelgg (ITA) – Dynastar / Lange / Look
4. Stephanie Brunner (AUT) –Head / Head / Head
5. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
6. Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
7. Raghnild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head / Head / Head
8. Kristin Lysdahl (NOR) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
9. Tina Robnik (SLO) – Volkl / Dalbello / Marker
9. Sara Hector (SWE) – Head / Head / Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|23||42||425921||HAUGEN Kristine Gjelsten||1992||NOR||57.65||1:00.41||1:58.06||+2.86||24.33||8.00|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|58||299388||BERTANI Luisa Matilde Maria||1996||ITA||1:00.58|
|45||426100||HOLTMANN Mina Fuerst||1995||NOR||58.44|
|Did not finish 1st run|