In the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, top World Cup slalom and overall athletes – 16 from each gender – competed in a parallel slalom under the lights on Tuesday night. The City Event is a unique, rapid-fire discipline featuring panel gates and head-to-head competition where the losing athlete from each duel gets eliminated until the final round features just four racers.
As soon as the U.S. Ski Team’s Mikaela Shiffrin and France’s Adeline Baud Mugnier pushed out of the start gate in the first round, fans could tell it would be an exciting competition. If going head-to-head wasn’t exciting enough, former American World Cup skier Warner Nickerson helped build up the hype all night in his role as announcer at the race. Last year’s winner for the ladies, Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, did not make it to the quarter final after losing to teammate Melanie Meillard. On the men’s side, top stars like Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen were eliminated in the first round.
At the end of the night, Shiffrin won the women’s event while the big surprise of the evening was Linus Strasser of Germany, who claimed the victory in the men’s competition. It was Shiffrin and Strasser’s first wins in a City Event.
On the women’s podium, Shiffrin was joined by Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia in second place and Attacking Viking Nina Loeseth in third place. For Shiffrin, winning an event like this was a bucket list item that she was happy to cross off.
“I mean, it was a great show tonight,” Shiffrin said. “I think everybody enjoyed it. We could hear you (the fans) screaming. It was really fun.”
Aside from the great show, the event is a challenge for the athletes.
“It sort of falls under the category of slalom…but it’s completely different because you can’t hit the gates really. You have to go around them,” Shiffrin explained. “It’s a new kind of thing, and it has some of the feeling of slalom and some of the feeling of GS, so you definitely have to train it.”
It was Strasser’s first time ever on a World Cup podium–something he admittedly never expected since he came into the race as a replacement athlete.
“No, seriously not, but I am here instead of Felix (Neureuther) because of his knee, and he said, ‘Come on, boy. That’s your chance. You’re in it to win it,’ and I took my chance,” he said.
Strasser beat out Frenchman Alexis Pinturault in the final round, and Sweden’s Mattias Hargin took third place after beating Great Britain’s Dave Ryding. It was Hargin’s first World Cup podium result since March 2015, which was made even more special thanks to the home crowd.
“It’s amazing. To score a podium back in the home town, it’s amazing,” Hargin said. “The support I have here, the whole evening is crazy, so I’m so happy.”
The race was also important for athletes hunting for crucial World Cup points. All losers of the first round are guaranteed 15 points toward slalom and overall standings. Those eliminated in the quarter final are awarded 40 points. The top four athletes receive 100, 80, 60 and 50 points based on their result.
This win extends Shiffrin’s lead in the overall and slalom standings. In the overall, she has 1203 points, putting her more than 100 points ahead of Switzerland’s Lara Gut, who did not race. She also continues to lead in the slalom standings by over 100 points ahead of Velez Zuzulova.
In the men’s standings, Hirscher continues to dominate the slalom and overall standings. The Austrian has a 432-point lead in the overall standings ahead of Kristoffersen and Pinturault, who have 843 points. Meanwhile, he leads by 60 points in the slalom standings.
Men and women now head to St. Moritz, Switzerland for World Championships from Feb. 6-19.
Top 4 Women
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
2. Veronika Velez Zuzulova (SVK) – Salomon / Salomon / Salomon
3. Nina Loeseth (NOR) –Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
4. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
Top 4 Men
1. Linus Strasser (GER) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head / Head / Head
3. Mattias Hargin (SWE) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
4. Dave Ryding (GBR) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer