WENGEN, Switzerland – Much like Aksel Lund Svindal’s domination of downhill this season, his Norwegian teammate, Henrik Kristofersen, has had a similar stranglehold on the top step of the slalom podium. The wiry Attacking Viking took his fourth out of five slaloms contested this season, winning on Sunday in Wengen with a total time of 1:37.85 seconds. Flanking Kristoffersen on the podium was a pair of Italians, with Giuliano Razzoli and Stefano Gross in second and third, 0.30 and 0.68 seconds back, respectively.
As the snow fell steadily – and at times blindingly – throughout the day, the young Norwegian star was calm, cool, and collected en route to yet another convincing slalom win. A relatively flat slope by World Cup standards as the normal slalom hill was not ready in time for the race, the bottom portion of the downhill track proved no match for Kristoffersen as he charged through the snowflakes, attacking the second run like a banshee and crossing the line to do what looked like his best rendition of a “Lambeau Leap” as he jumped into the padding surrounding the finish. The scoreboard displayed its now usual green light.
“Well, it wasn’t a classic slalom hill here in Wengen this year, but it feels pretty good at the moment to win four out of five and be second in the one I didn’t win, so it gives a lot of confidence,” he said in the finish. “Now, it’s just really important to stay grounded and keep on working because it ain’t over yet.”
Kristoffersen’s closest competition in the slalom hunt this season, Marcel Hirscher of Austria, uncharacteristically failed to finish the second run, something the circuit’s second most consistent slalom skier hasn’t done since the World Championships last year. But that doesn’t mean Kristoffersen is going to let off the gas.
Looking ahead to the next two World Cup slalom stops in Kitzbuehel and Schladming – two of the most classic venues on the circuit – Kristoffersen is more than up for the challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to them. I’ve done really good there before,” he said. “I have a second place from Kitzbuehel and my first win was in Schladming, so I would for sure like to repeat that.”
Kristoffersen’s win marks a perfect weekend for the Norwegian team after Kjetil Jansrud’s win in the alpine combined on Friday and Svindal’s downhill victory on Saturday. The Attacking Vikings are nothing short of dominating the winners box on the men’s side this year with 12 of 19 races having been won by a Norwegian.
For Razzoli, finally making it to the World Cup podium after a streak of bad luck and mistakes so far this season is validation for how fast he knows he has been skiing, despite what his previous results might show.
“It’s important because from the start of the season, I ski very well and very fast,” the Italian explained. “Not lucky in Val d’Isere, fourth in Campiglio, mistake in Santa Caterina, and now I am on the podium. It’s important for this, I am very happy for my skiing and it’s OK for the next time.”
It was also Gross’ first trip to the podium this season, and judging by the aggression in his skiing thus far, he is definitely one to watch as the circuit moves to Austria in the coming weeks.
Leading the way for the Americans in 12th place was Vermont native Tim Kelley. It was a special day for the University of Vermont and Cochran’s Ski Club product, who scored his first ever World Cup points after spending nearly 10 years on and off the circuit following his debut in the 2006 Beaver Creek slalom.
After injuries almost ended his career prematurely, Kelley chose the NCAA route, attending UVM and winning a national slalom title in 2011 as well as a team title in 2012. Now, he has arrived on the World Cup.
“It’s great. It’s been a battle the whole 10 years,” Kelley explained. “I wouldn’t trade my career for anyone’s, but it’s definitely been a bit of a grind, you know? Three back surgeries now, a hip surgery, it feels good to be healthy and have a good World Cup race and finally get into the World Cup points. It’s a big weight off my shoulders, and hopefully I can move forward from here and keep scoring points and keep working my way up on the World Cup.”
Kelley has always had a bit of a soft spot for Wengen, as he has been well on his way to qualification here in the past if it weren’t for untimely mistakes or DNFs.
“Wengen is awesome. I’ve always skied well here,” he said. “I had one year I was 31st, a tenth out of the flip and then I think the other three years I was top 30 in the splits and then would blow out. It’s obviously a little different being on the downhill track as opposed to the classic slalom track. The classic slalom track is amazing and super fun, but this one just stole my heart I think!”
American David Chodounsky also battled through some seriously bad visibility on the second run to ultimately finish in 20th place.
Also of note was the fact that eight starters, with six ultimately qualifying for the second run, have roots in NCAA racing. Along with Kelley, Chodounsky (Dartmouth), Leif Kristian Haugen (Norway, University of Denver), Espen Lysdahl (Norway, Denver), Erik Read (Canada, Denver), and Trevor Philp (Canada, Denver) all qualified for a second run. Jonathan Nordbotten (Norway, UVM) and Robby Kelley (USA, UVM) unfortunately fell victim to the first run, nevertheless showing the talent that the American college circuit can help develop.
The news was sadder for slalom specialist Markus Larsson who is out for the season after after being diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back earlier this week. The Swede had been suffering from weakness in his left leg prior to the diagnosis and will undergo surgery in Stockholm sometime in the near future.
The men’s tour now moves to the legendary stop of Kitzbuehel, Austria, for downhill, super G, combined, and slalom races Jan. 19-24.
By Hank McKee
1. Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
2. Razzoli, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
7. Grange, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
7. Myhrer, Head/Head/Head
10. Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Men’s World Cup slalom, Wengen, Switzerland, Jan. 17, 2016. … It is the third and final race of the 86th Lauberhorn. … It is the 19th race of the men’s 45 race World Cup schedule. … It is the sixth of 11 originally scheduled men’s slaloms, with the Levi slalom having been canceled and not made up. … It is the 37th World Cup slalom held at Wengen. … Felix Neureuther won the most recent on Jan. 17, 2015.
- It is the eighth career World Cup victory for Henrik Kristofferson … his fourth of the season, all in slalom. … It is his first win at Wengen, though he was on the podium in last year’s slalom here. … He is just the second Norwegian to win a Wengen slalom, the first being Kjetil Andre Aamodt on Jan. 16, 2000. … Winning margin is .30 of a second. … Top eight finishers are within the same second. … Top 22 within two seconds.
- It is the 10th career World Cup podium for Giuliano Rizzoli … his first of the season. … It is his first Wengen podium.
- It is the seventh career World Cup podium for Stefano Gross … his first since Jan. 27, 2015. … It is his second Wengen podium having placed second on Jan. 17, 2015.
- It is the first World Cup scoring finish for Tim Kelley. … It is the fifth score of the season for David Chodounsky and his third at Wengen.
- Aksel Lund Svindal (did not race) holds the lead of the World Cup overall standings 816-801 over Marcel Hirscher (DNF 2nd). … Kristoffersen is third with 671pts.
- Kristoffersen leads the slalom standings 480-340 over Hirscher. … Felix Neureuther (fifth in race) is third with 187pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 2766-2412 over Norway. … France is third with 2232pts. … The U.S. is fifth at 1130pts and Canada ninth at 299pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|17||42||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||49.05||50.44||1:39.49||+1.64||12.07|
|19||52||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA||48.62||50.94||1:39.56||+1.71||12.58|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|60||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|57||380292||ZRNCIC DIM Natko||1986||CRO|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|