The energy of the crowd was palpable in Adelboden, Switzerland as Daniel Yule approached the finish, passing each split in the green. He led the first run by just 0.25 seconds and was pushing hard coming down the pitch to the soundtrack of a roaring Swiss crowd. When Yule crossed the finish line, in the lead by 0.23 seconds, the crowd exploded. All sources of tension had were released in screams of joy, having just watched Yule put on the show of his career. Yule lapped around the finish and yelled, ‘this is my house’ in triumph, pounding his chest as fans roared.
Switzerland has never been known for its slalom skiing, particularly on the men’s side of the sport. On Sunday, the Swiss men proved that they have what it takes, and more, to put Swiss slalom on the map. By the end of the race, five athletes had finished in the top 25. Going into the second run, the Swiss men held four out of the five top slots, aside from France’s Clement Noel. Ramon Zenhauesern sat in third, Tanguy Nef sat in fourth, and Loic Meillard sat in fifth. At the end of the day, not all of these men had the results they wanted. Still, five men finished in the top 25, and six had been capable of it. To succeed so profoundly on their home country’s soil, at a classic World Cup spot known for it’s notoriously tricky and technical pitch, is a dream come true.
“It’s just incredible, for us Swiss guys, it’s a win at home in front of the home crowd, it’s forever going to be a highlight of my career,” said Yule. “The emotions, it’s just unbelievable. With the mistake in the flat, I thought I’d lost it so I just figured ‘Okay, Daniel, keep pushing. Never give up.’ And then to come over the finish line and to see the light of green, and the noise in the finish area was deafening, it’s just incredible. I’ll forget this day that’s for sure.”
Yule’s second win of the season (and third of his career) comes just four days after his win in the night slalom at Madonna di Campiglio. It had been 13 years since a Swiss man won in Adelboden. Now, Yule has the distinction of being the only Swiss man to have won three World Cup slalom races.
“I guess I just kind of like some pressure,” laughed Yule. “In between runs, I said, ‘whatever happens Daniel, if you have to go down today at least go down in flames.’ So I said go for it, full attack, and no matter what happens you’ll have no regrets. So I’m so happy that it all worked out for me. I’m taking nothing for granted and next week it’s back to work but for now, I’m going to really enjoy this win.”
The Swiss men were not the only guys to put on a show in Adelboden. Second-place finisher, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, also had some pent-up emotions, which he visibly released after a disappointing first run. Kristoffersen has never been one to shy away from emotional finishes, whether those finishes be after the first or the second run. Sometimes he is angry, frustrated by one thing or another. Other times he is elated and satisfied with his overall performance. On Sunday, he expressed frustration after struggling with his equipment not just in the slalom, but in the giant slalom as well.
“It felt like skiing on a washboard because the skis were moving so much, it felt like I could ski on only 75 percent,” explained Kristoffersen. “Whenever I tried to push, the skis were just moving under me. Today the first run was exactly the same, even worse, and I was visibly upset after the first run.”
After making some adjustments to his equipment with his team, Kristoffersen said the second run felt much better, and it showed in his performance. The 25-year-old Norwegian advanced from eighth place into second, holding the leader seat until Yule came down the course to claim the Adelboden win. Although Kristoffersen was able to channel his frustrations into better and faster skiing, he did acknowledge that he was not one hundred percent happy with his skiing this weekend and apologized to the press in the post-race conference for not being happy after his first run.
“I didn’t feel like I kept it together after the first run, but that’s my process, and that’s a little bit why some people are good athletes because they get visibly upset when they are not performing to the level they think that they should,” said Kristoffersen. “I’m like that. I’m not afraid of showing my feelings. Maybe sometimes I should show it less, but that’s just how I am and I think that’s one of the reasons why I climbed from eighth place to second place in the second run. When you do a good thing, you should be happy with that. And when you do something bad you should be upset. That’s just how it is.”
Luke Winters was once again the best finisher for the American men in the slalom. In Adelboden, he was joined by two new teammates, Ben Ritchie and Kyle Negomir, alongside River Radamus who has been filling in the second U.S. starting spot in the slalom for the past couple of races. While the majority of the group were unable to finish their first run, Winters did, and he did so with speed, skiing into 11th – 0.86 seconds out from Yule’s leading time.
Winters has found himself in similar situations before, where he heads into the second run well positioned for a top 10 finish (which would be the first of his career). After the first run, the 22-year-old acknowledged this pressure and knew that nerves would be the key thing he would need to fight off to keep it together during the second run.
“Ski racing is a crazy thing. You can feel like you’re trying to do the same things, but you’re just not,” explained Winters. “I don’t have a clear answer as to why I was so much slower but it was still a crazy tight race, and if you ski a little bit worse, you move back a lot, and that’s what happened.”
The men look forward to putting on another show this upcoming weekend in Wengen, another classic stop on the tour. Friday, January 17th hosts an alpine combined. On Saturday, the downhill will take place, followed the fourth slalom race of the month on Sunday, January 19th.
- Daniel Yule (SUI): 1:48.73
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR): +0.23
- Marco Schwarz (AUT): +0.28
- Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI): +0.36
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA): +0.41
- Linus Strasser (GER): +0.50
- Fabio Gstrein (AUT): +0.58
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA): +0.59
- Loic Meillard (SUI): +0.61
- Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR): +0.62
For full race results, click here.