Although Ramon Zenhäusern won the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Slalom race held in Alta Badia, the undoubted talent of Alex Vinatzer was the talk of the day, just missing the podium by 19th hundreds of a second after setting the fastest time in the first run.
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By Daphne Seberich
Ramon Zenhäusern won the first Slalom race of the season. After the classic Giant Slalom on Sunday, this year, the last section of the Gran Risa slope hosted the race between the rapid gates and saw the triumph of the two-meter-tall Swiss giant. The 28-year-old skier from the canton of Valais rose from eighth after the first run to the highest step of the podium and managed to celebrate his fourth World Cup victory.
The winner said: “I gave everything in the second run. It was very difficult because it was the first race of the season for me, but luckily it worked. I was really very nervous in the days before the Slalom because I didn’t know exactly how my condition was. It is wonderful to climb the highest step of the podium because it means that the work you did has paid off”.
Two Austrian skiers made it to the podium with him, both after a beautiful rally: Manuel Feller (second after recovering 11 positions) and Marco Schwarz (from tenth to third in the second run).
But the talk of the day was without a doubt the young rising star Alex Vinatzer, who surprised everyone by setting the fastest time of the first run. The 21-year-old skier from Val Gardena was leading the race but failed to make it to the podium in the second run and finished fourth, 19 hundredths of a second behind the winner and just 7 hundredths from third place.
A big disappointment for Italy, which had dreamed for a race win with Alex Vinatzer. The Men’s Italian Ski team is not doing too well this season. Dominik Paris, the South Tyrolean Downhill star, is still recovering from the injury he suffered in Kitzbühel last year. The Men’s Italian Ski Team still has to clinch their first win of the season, whereas the Women’s Team with Sofia Goggia and Federica Brignone are proving to be worthy of triumphing.
After winning the Giant Slalom race of the day before, Alexis Pinturault had the privilege to start first. The expectations were very high for the Frenchman, but Henrik Kristoffersen, another experienced and successful Slalom skier, beat the 29-year-old French to secure the provisional lead of the race.
Starting with bib number ten, the young South Tyrolean Alex Vinatzer surprised everyone by beating all the big names like Pinturault and Kristoffersen and earning the lead of the first run by 0.27 seconds.
No one managed to beat the Italian’s blistering time, not even Austrian legend Mario Matt’s younger brother, Michael, who only clinched the third spot of the provisional standings of the first run.
Another legend of the Slalom discipline, Manfred Mölgg, one of the most successful Italian skiers, didn’t come even close to the surprising time set by Vinatzer. That alone proves to FISI (Federazione Italian Sport Invernali) that the 21-year-old youngster from Val Gardena is the future of the national Italian ski team.
Filip Zubcic, who Ready Set Sport interviewed ahead of the Alta Badia Giant Slalom second run (click here for the interview), barely made it into the Top-30 (qualified in 28th position), although there is to say that the Slalom discipline is not what he specializes in.
Ahead of the second run, nobody could have predicted the race winner. There was Kristoffer Jakobsen, who qualified 29th in the first run that kept the lead for most of the race and finished in 12th position. The first one who managed to beat the Swede was Manuel Feller, the runner-up of the competition.
Ramon Zenhäusern set an impressive time to surpass Feller by 0.08 seconds onto the highest step of the podium and beating a disappointing Alexis Pinturault (11th place) and Henrik Kristoffersen (6th place).
The last one to descend the steep and icy slope of the Gran Risa was the provisional leader of the first run, Alex Vinatzer. He made every Italian dream of a win on home soil, but the odds were not in Vinatzer’s favor, barely missing the podium by 0.07 seconds.
This is what Vinatzer said after his race: “If someone had told me before the Slalom that I would finish fourth, I would have accepted eagerly. But now I count the hundredths of a second and I realize that I was really close. I only needed to improve by seven hundredths to reach the podium and I think that it actually was within my reach. I tried to attack on the slower snow, but I didn’t make it. Anyway, congratulations to the organizers because the slope was perfectly groomed and this is evidenced by the fact that many managed to do well in the first run even with high bib numbers. Now, with today’s injection of energy, I hope to do well also in the 3Tre race.”
This was the end of the two days of events of the Alpine Ski World Cup, an appointment that has been cherished by South Tyroleans and by the inhabitants of Alta Badia since the winter of 1985, when the first edition was held. The event has grown year after year, becoming an icon for the entire valley and making the location itself a point of reference for ski enthusiasts. Hopefully, there will be fans back on the stands next season, when the best skiers from all around the world will compete again to earn the title of “Gran Risa conquerers”.
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