After an untimely exit during yesterday’s second run of giant slalom, Henrik Kristoffersen wasted no time dwelling on past misfortunes. Instead, the Norwegian turned his raw talent and a bit of lingering leg pain into the fifth World Cup victory of his young career, winning the slalom in Val d’Isere by an impressive 1.09 seconds over yesterday’s GS winner, Marcel Hirscher. Rounding out the podium in third, 1.46 seconds back, was German Felix Neureuther with his second podium of the weekend after his runner-up performance the previous day.
Yesterday’s twirling aerial tumble left Kristoffersen in visible pain immediately following the crash, and apparently aches and soreness were there to greet him as he got out of bed and onto the hill this morning.
“I’m a little sore today from yesterday,” explained Kristoffersen. “It maybe didn’t look that big on TV but I hurt my hip and leg a little bit but it’s OK. I’ve had some pain before and in the race you have so much adrenaline that it’s OK.”
The secret to turning a bad crash into a victory the next day? Faith in your speed and skill certainly can’t hurt.
“Yesterday was not a super big disappointment because I was skiing so fast and I think I would have been fast in the second run too but sometimes things happen, but today was really good,” he added.
Crossing the finish line after running bib one in the first run, Kristoffersen, to the surprise of many, shook his head in disappointment despite making short work of the quick and challenging course set, which featured a unique hairpin-to-hairpin section just before the finish that could be skied three different ways.
“The feeling was so bad after first run,” he explained. “The course was so tight and turny, but it was like that for everyone. The feeling, like I said, was really bad but apparently the skiing was pretty good so I’m happy.”
Kristoffersen’s second run was nothing short of slalom masterclass. Holding off a surging Hirscher and keeping cool after watching the two racers in front of him ski out, Kristoffersen came away with the win by a significant margin. This gives the young star the red leader’s bib for the second time in his career, the first being after he won last season’s opening slalom in Levi, Finland. If he carries the same form he showed today into the rest of the season, fans should get used to seeing Kristoffersen in red for a while.
“I’m maybe not more mature as a person, but as a skier. It’s a really good feeling,” he said of his performance under pressure. “It’s the second time I have the red bib and hopefully I keep it a little longer now than last year.”
For Hirscher, Kristoffersen’s first run dominance came as quite a shock to the Austrian. Eventually finding himself 1.66 seconds back in eighth place after the first run, Hirscher and his team went back to the drawing board to sort out a game plan for run two.
“After the first run, it was a disappointing moment. It was more like a shock because I felt OK,” Hirscher admitted. “We decided to analyze it and change really a lot. It was a lot of risk to change so many different screws but at the end it was totally the right decision.”
Hirscher’s second run harkened back to his breakthrough years on the World Cup, where his breakneck style of coming from behind with borderline reckless skiing was a common occurrence, delighting fans and producing a few grey hairs on the heads of his coaches and father, no doubt.
“I’m smiling. I’m super happy. I’m pumped. This was one of those runs that I usually skied when I was 18 years old,” he added. “It was total fun to be sometimes a bit over the maximum and run completely on the edge.”
Neureuther walks away from Val d’Isere with two podiums – a third today to add to his second from yesterday’s GS. Even though he was shut out from the win two days in a row, the German has many positives to take into future races despite his struggles with back pain.
“I’m not disappointed. I’m very happy with a podium today, definitely,” he said. “It was a tough race, tough conditions, course setting, and I can be really happy to go home with two podiums this year in Val d’Isere. You always try to be better and better and faster and faster, and I did some mistakes so that’s why I was third today but I will try better next time.”
After yesterday’s race, Neureuther expressed some uncertainty about his slalom form as he was limited in his training over the summer and fall. Although he likely didn’t demonstrate top form this weekend, the German will look to be more aggressive moving deeper into the season now that his back has passed muster in slalom.
“Cool races next week so I feel really good, my back feels really good at the moment and I hope – knock on wood – it will be like that,” he added. “I need some more days of training and then I try to become faster and faster and then we will see what’s going to happen next week.”
In an otherwise lackluster weekend for the Americans, veteran David Chodounsky turned in a career-best fourth-place finish, attacking from the back and moving up from the 24th start spot to even lead the race until Hirscher finished his second run.
“It’s unreal. Fourth place is amazing, to start off a slalom season like this is super cool just to get your mind where you want it to be, know that you’re skiing well,” an understandably excited Chodounsky said in the finish. “First run I got popped in the face – not the best of starts, but I still had a good run. Kind of brought my focus in second run, calmed down. I was a little scrappy first run I think, but the nerves calmed down a little bit second run, skied well and I’m psyched!”
A longer than usual prep-period – which included an engagement to his girlfriend – culminated with the slalom season finally opening in Val d’Isere, a venue that suits the slalom ace much more than the canceled, flatter Levi slope.
“Steeps are my forte. Steeps and hard snow, you combine them, and I just get a good feeling and I really like that. I feel comfortable on this hill even though it’s a tough hill. I love coming here, it’s great,” he added.
Chodounsky’s only other World Cup top five came in a city event in Moscow, Russia, in 2013, where he finished fifth.
Talking a step forward after yesterday’s disappointing performance was Ted Ligety, who finished in a tie for 20th place with Austrian Michael Matt. If history is any indication, however, the real Ted will return with a vengeance in Alta Badia next week.
The men now head to Val Gardena, Italy for downhill and super G races Dec. 16-19.
To view more photos from this race click here.
Fans can stay current on the World Cup circuit by downloading the new U.S. Ski Team iOS app powered by Ski Racing here.
By Hank McKee
- Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Nordica
- Chodounsky, Nordica/Nordica/Nordica
- Lizeroux, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Thaler, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Moelgg, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Khoroshilov, Fisher/Fischer/Fischer
- Yule, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Hargin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Men’s World Cup slalom, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 13, 2015. … It is the eighth race of the men’s 45 race schedule … the first of 11 scheduled slaloms, with one cancellation (Levi). … It is the 167th World Cup race set at least in part at Val d’sere … the second of four this season and last for the men. … Mario Matt won the last World Cup men’s slalom at the site, Dec. 15, 2013.
- It is the fifth career World Cup win for Henrik Kristoffersen, his fourth in slalom. … Winning margin is 1.09. … Top three are within the same second. … It is his first win of the season and his first at Val d’Isere. … His first win was in January of 2014, all of the others came last season.
- It is the fifth podium in five finishes this season for Marcel Hirscher … the 77th of his career. … He has been on the podium in more than 60 percent of his World Cup results (77 of 127) … and in 35 of 56 slaloms completed (62.5 percent). … It is his ninth podium at Val d’Isere in 12 finishes (75 percent).
- It is the 39th World Cup podium for Felix Neureuther … his 31st in slalom. … It is his third World Cup podium at Val d’Isere and second at Val d’Isere in two days.
- It is a career best placing for David Chodounsky, besting a fifth from a parallel city event in Moscow on the last day of 2013. … His previous best in slalom had been seventh at Val d’Isere Dec. 15, 2013.
- It is the 67th World Cup slalom result for Ted Ligety and 56th best of those.
- Hirscher leads the World Cup overall standings 440-317 over Aksel Lund Svindal (did not race). … Neureuther is third with 225pts and Kristoffersen fourth with 200. …Ted Ligety is fifth overall with 191pts and Travis Ganong (did not race) is eighth with 172pts.
- Kristoffersen leads the slalom standings 100-80 over Hirscher.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 1286-933 over Italy. … Norway is third with 835. … The U.S. is fifth at 647 and Canada eighth at 139pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|71||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|41||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|69||30388||BIRKNER DE MIGUEL Tomas||1997||ARG|