From August 26th to September 2nd, the New Zealand Winter Games at Coronet Peak hosted the FIS Australia New Zealand Cup (ANC) series – men’s and women’s alpine races in super-G, giant slalom, and slalom that followed the parallel night slalom, championed by USA’s Luke Winters and Canada’s Amelia Smart.
The series kicked off with both men’s and women’s super-G races taking place on August 27th, 2019 under sunny skies. A total fo 17 athletes competed for the women and 25 for the men.
New Zealand’s own 17-year-old Alice Robinson took the win during both super-G runs. The giant slalom World Junior Champion has been working to expand into the speed events coming into the 2019-2020 season, and her hard work paid off thus far. In the first race, Robinson owned the course, finishing 1.82 seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Olivia Foster. Switzerland’s Carole Bissig finished in third, 2.28 seconds off of Robinson’s winning time.
In the second race, Robinson once again led the pack by over a second for the win. This time, Great Britain’s Alex Tilley was the next closest competitor, 1.03 seconds behind. Slovakia’s Barbara Kantorova rounded out the podium in third.
The first super-G for the men race’s podium was packed in for the men. Belgium’s Armand Marchant barely pulled out the win, just nine hundredths ahead of Slovakia’s Adam Zampa, who squeaked in front of the third-place finisher, Norway’s Marcus Monsen, by 0.18 seconds.
In the men’s second race, Marchant slipped up and fell into fifth. The Netherland’s Maarten Meiners held it together to jump to the top of the podium in comparison to his seventh-place finish the first run of the day. Sweden’s Olle Sundin also made a significant leap, finishing in second 0.24 seconds off of Meiners after starting in bib 17. His teammate Tobias Hedstroem was close behind, jumping up into third from bib 16 to finish 0.25 seconds off of Sundin.
Set on the same course as the Super G events held earlier in the week, 36 women and 86 men made the most of the mornings firm snow conditions on The Hurdle to set up a thrilling showdown between some of the world’s best technical ski racers on the first of two days of Giant Slalom racing which contribute to the overall standings for the Australia New Zealand (ANC) Cup.
Junior World Champion kiwi Alice Robinson backed up her double win at the Super G events on Tuesday 27 August, with an overall second place today. Robinson is looking forward to another day of Giant Slalom racing tomorrow.
The women’s race was a triumphant conclusion to a two-year injury lay off for University of Denver senior, Storm Klomhaus as her form pushed Robinson into second and winner of the Winter Games NZ Night Parallel Slalom Maryna Gasiencia-Daniel (Poland) into third.
“I’m not known for finishing courses. In my last season of racing before injuring my knee (two years ago) I didn’t make a finish in 32 races so I’m just so happy to be out here and skiing again. You don’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone,” said Klomhaus.
The depth of the men’s field was apparent with many starters boasting low FIS (international ranking points) contributing to a day of close racing with the top sixteen being within one second of each other. Sam Maes (Belgium) backed up his top seeding position for the event winning by 0.32 seconds over Magnus Walsh of Austria.
A member of Team Global Racing, “It’s just great having my teammate Magnus (Walsh) in second. It’s always good to grab a win and perfect confidence knowing that you’re skiing fast and can win a race in a very strong field”, stated an elated Maes.
Adam Zampa (Slovakia) rounded out the men’s podium taking third a mere four one-hundredths of a second back from Walsh.
Alice Robinson was awarded the Janey Blair Memorial Trophy for being the fastest finishing New Zealand female.
With Giant Slalom specialists Alice Robinson (NZL) and Sam Maes (Belgium) non-starters for today’s racing, the door was opened for athletes within the stacked men’s and women’s fields to stake their claim for the podium and valuable FIS and ANC points.
If the first run was about consistency and finding flow, the second run with a straighter course following a full-length reset was one of survival with the second run taking a high number of casualties across both fields.
Birthday girl Chaira Mair (Austria) found her groove and taking the lead in both first and second runs making it three consecutive years in a row that she has raced and won in New Zealand on the day of her birth.
“I had a good feeling this morning knowing that it was my birthday and that I have skied very well on my birthday here before,” said Mair.
Kiwi Piera Hudson continued her strong form from the recent ANC races in Hotham, Australia and wasn’t letting an altercation with a gate midway down the first run of yesterdays race prevent her from charging into third place.
“Spring conditions made it a fight in the second half of the course to run a smooth, fast line this afternoon,” said Hudson.
A double salting of the piste to assist in keeping the snow as hard as possible kept the course as firm as could be expected but it was clear that the snow conditions and straighter course set were playing havoc with the field as multiple men exited the course on the bottom section of the below ‘Coaches Corner’.
As the top 30 men from the first run were reversed in start order for the second run, Marco Reymond (Switzerland) proved that putting two clean runs together wins races.
“Today was very turny and that was very good for me, I like that. It was different snow between runs, very aggressive up top and very soft down the bottom. I had good speed going into the flat section which I could hold to the finish,” commented Reymond.
Swiss racers Pierre Bugnard and Daniele Sette joined their team-mate Reymond on the podium with the addition of ANC yellow bib holder Magnus Walch (Austria) who tied with Sette for third.
In a show of dominance, the Swiss men filled five of the top fifteen positions.
The first day of spring brought another day of blue skies to the slopes of Coronet Peak as the Winter Games NZ Alpine Skiing program shifted gears to the short quick turns of slalom for the first of two days of FIS ANC Slalom Races presented by Coronet Peak.
A shift of the course from Race Arena back to the Hurdle was made by officials to maximize the firmer snow conditions of the higher altitude terrain giving course setters the opportunity to utilize the steep pitch and natural rollers to set two fast-running courses to entice athletes to open it up and charge the hill.
The challenge of managing the piste quality throughout the duration of the day called for two separate course sets for both the men’s and women’s first and second runs to ensure the best possible snow quality for the large international fields that the Winter Games NZ Alpine race series has attracted.
The race proved to be a breakthrough for two time previous winner of this event, Marc Rochat (France) who put paid to his lack of finishing World Cup races last season with a confidence-boosting win.
“I had a rough season last year. It feels so good to put a result tougher, to put two runs together. Today will help me get World Cup starts again as I only finished one World Cup last year resulting in me dropping out of the top 30 world rankings. I needed this result today,” stated an emphatic Rochat at the finish.
Johannes Strotz (Austria) delivered a strong first run that set him up to ski into second just 0.12 seconds back from Rochat.
Winner of Tuesday’s first Super G race Armand Marchand (Austria) proved that he’s a multi-discipline skier skiing into third with a result that will see his FIS points ranking drop significantly after starting from 43rd start position in the first run.
“It was pretty rough this morning especially starting so far back in the start order,” said Marchand.
Disruption from the planned schedule saw the women’s second run delayed until after the men’s second run due to parts of the course needing to be repositioned due to variable snow depth on the left-hand side of the course.
Josephine Forni (France) the joint ANC yellow bib holder skied a strong first run to lead after the first run but fell victim to a straddled gate late in the second run to join fellow yellow bib holder kiwi Piera Hudson on the DNF list, opening the way for Alex Tilley (Great Britain) to score a career highlight result and end a two year run of unfinished slalom courses by winning the women’s race.
“This was a big result for me today finishing my first slalom in two years and skiing through for the win,” stated an elated Tilley.
In a day of emphatic finish celebrations, USA’s Storm Klomhaus winner of the first Giant Slalom of the Winter Games skied into second summing up her performance as “I finished a slalom! No other words are needed. Bring on tomorrow.”
Carole Bissig (Switzerland) rounded out the women’s podium despite coming to a complete halt on the bumpy course early in the second run.
In a change from usual running order, the men ran before the women, but it didn’t stop over half of the 76 strong men’s field from finishing. The fast running, open course set made the most of snow conditions on the Hurdle course with the piste holding superbly as the temperatures rose throughout the day signifying the preparation and efforts made by the Coronet Peak race crews.
The final day of racing saw a tight battle in the men’s field with the top ten separated by less than one second and a mere 0.36 seconds separating the podium.
Fabio Grstein (Austria) reversed a fourth fastest first run to blitz the field and take the win.
“My feeling was not too good today, but the time was ok for the win. The snow was pretty good considering the warm temperatures and it was a better day for me than yesterday,” said Grstein.
Grstein’s Austrian teammate Johannes Strolz and Armand Marchand (Belgium) repeated their second and third positions of yesterday continuing their run of good slalom form.
“I had two good races” Strolz commented. “I really wanted to win but I had some issues on the steeper part of the course and Fabio and Armand had strong performances today.
Marchand’s satisfaction was evident with his two slalom podiums summing up the day’s racing up as, “I was really impressed with the snow, it was a perfect slope today. Starting from the bib number one this morning (versus bib 43 yesterday) set me up for a good first run.
Like the men, the women’s field was challenged by the course set and terrain with a high number of non-finishers.
In a repeat from yesterday, Great Britain’s Alex Tilley proved that a change of equipment may be the key to unlocking her talent in the slalom discipline as she won both the first and second runs of the day to take the top step of the slalom podium for the second day in a row.
“I went out there to find the limit and stick to it with the fast course set today. I let it hang out a little bit and I guess it paid off. It’s big for me to have two wins in slalom after two years of DNFs,” said Tilley.
Joint ANC yellow bib holder Josephine Forni (France) skied two consistent runs for second place with Carole Bissig of Switzerland repeating her third-place position of yesterday.
“Yesterday was great but I struggled just before the finish line and didn’t finish. I was a little bit frustrated with my skiing today and not finding the speed I know I have,” said Forni who is also a regular starter on the World Cup circuit.
New Zealand’s top-ranked women’s slalom skier Piera Hudson was awarded the ANC yellow bib for Slalom while Josephine Forni (France) was awarded the overall ANC yellow bib for Slalom.
Molly Mueller was the top finisher for the Americans in seventh.
Press releases courtesy of Winter Games NZ.