Marco Schwarz ends Austria’s Slalom winning drought

Marco Schwarz finally ends the negative streak after Marcel Hirscher’s retirement for Austria, winning the Slalom race held in Adelboden and earning the red bib from teammate Manuel Feller.

Photo credits: Tiroler Tageszeitung & Getty Images

By Daphne Seberich

Austria’s back. After almost two years, an Austrian skier stands on the highest step of the podium of a technical ski discipline. The last win dates back to the 29th of January when a skier named Marcel Hirscher triumphed in Schladming on home soil. Marco Schwarz finally ended the “Wunderteam’s” curse, a drought that lasted too long for a country whose national sport is Alpine Skiing. The famous Adelboden cow’s bell trophy awarded to Schwarz boosted him in the Slalom standings, where he now is leading. 

For only 14 hundredths of a second, Linus Straßer missed out on a back-to-back win after earning his first Slalom trophy in Zagreb. The German is in his best shape and stepping into Felix Neureuther’s steps. 

The 2nd runner-up spot went to a brave Dave Ryding, who is still looking to bring the first-ever FIS Alpine Ski World Cup win to England. The veteran stepped on the podium for the second time in his career after earning his last Top-three result four years ago. Only one-hundredth of a second separated Straßer and Ryding.

Photo credits: Teller Report & Eurosport

After a below-par performance by Zenhäusern in Zagreb, the Swiss was expecting more from himself at his home race. The Alta Badia race winner was the first to set a time on the slope, starting with bib number 1, which usually is an advantage in Adelboden.

His time held onto the top spot of the standings, until Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, Marco Schwarz and subsequently, Clément Noël clinched provisional first place in the first run. 

Photo credits: Rai Sport

Much was expected by Daniel Yule, who won the Slalom held in Adelboden last season. The Swiss accumulated a high delay and only placed 15th after the first run. 

Many were surprised by different athlete’s performances, in good and bad ways. Dave Ryding, the British veteran set the best run of his season, only being off 76 hundredths of a second from the top and securing 8th place in the first run.

Manuel Feller, the skier that earned the red bib of the discipline in Zagreb, exited the race at the beginning of his run, losing out on the opportunity to increase his lead in the standings. 

Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Alexander Khoroshilov stunned everyone with their results. The Frenchman proved to interpret the “Zielhang” very well, only being 41 hundredths off the fastest time. The Russian, like Ryding, displayed his best performance of this season so far. He ranked 7th in the first run. 

Photo rights: Ready Set Sport & RSI

Italy’s victory hopes relied on Alex Vinatzer, which unfortunately scored zero points for the second time in a row. He straddled one of the gates but finished his run and was disqualified after the judges reviewed the footage. 

Despite excellent conditions and perfect weather, many of the Top-30 struggled in the second run, with nearly a third of the field making major mistakes or failing to finish all together. The famed “Zielhang” in Adelboden, the steep last pitch of the course, was what ultimately made the difference for those sitting in the Top-10, with many making costly mistakes. The course set by Swede Ola Masdal brought more difficulties than the athletes thought.

Only Yule, Matt, Meillard, Straßer, Ryding and Schwarz managed to put together a competitive run, closely battling it out to earn one of the coveted Adelboden cowbells. 

Marco Schwarz came out on top and won the first Slalom of his career, despite being on the podium in a Slalom race seven times. He now leads the standings by 16 points ahead of Straßer and has deserved to wear the red bib.

Photo credits: Sports Grind Entertainment

The anonymous race by Pinturault still secured him a 129-points lead in the Overall standings ahead of Kilde. 

After hosting three races, the Adelboden weekend is in the books. The Audi FIS World Cup tour will continue in Kitzbühel at the “Streif”, the most coveted Downhill race of the season. The Wengen events were canceled due to an increased number of Covid-19 cases. The Slalom and Downhill that were planned to take place on the Lauberhorn will take place in Kitzbühel. Hopefully, we will be able to see some action in the characteristic Swiss town next year, where some of the most exciting and suspenseful events have been held.

Photo credits: FIS

Linus Straßer’s emotional first Slalom win in Zagreb

Linus Straßer conquers Zagreb’s slope and wins for the first time a Slalom race in his career. The Austrian duo Feller-Schwarz is back on the podium after the Gran Risa challenge, with the first one of the two earning the red bib as provisional Slalom standings leader.

Photo credits: & Olympic Channel

By Daphne Seberich

Linus Straßer wins at the tricky Zagreb slope for the first time in his career. The Munich native gets the Snow Queen Trophy after an incredible second run, beating the Slalom specialists Pinturault and Kristoffersen as well as provisional leader Clément Noël. Straßer ends a three-year success drought in Slalom for Germany, stepping into Felix Neureuther’s footsteps after his last win in Levi in 2017. 

“I got a little bit emotional. I don’t really realize it”, Straßer said Wednesday after triumphing in the first men’s race of 2021.

Photo credits: Christophe Pallot (Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

The Austrian duo Manuel Feller-Marco Schwarz is back on the podium after a mediocre race in Madonna di Campiglio, earning Feller the red bib for the next race in Adelboden.

“This is one of the highlights of my career, I always wanted to have one,” Feller said. “It’s hard to believe for now.”

Starting as 8th after the first run, Straßer adapted the best to the tough Zagreb conditions, where the grass was peaking through the snow, recovering seven positions. He was not the MVP though, as Michael Matt went from 26th place all the way to fourth, just missing out on a podium by 30 hundredths of a second. It would’ve been one of the most incredible recoveries to date. 

Photo credits: LAOLA1

The slope was best suited for racers used to skiing in fresh, spring-ish powder, with not much grip and speed. Croatian skiers, trained by no other than Slalom legend Ivica Kostelić, seemed to adapt the best, all of them making it into the Top-30. No other team managed to place all their athletes in the second run. 

The first athlete on Zagreb’s slope was Madonna di Campiglio winner Henrik Kristoffersen. He never quite got into the rhythm of the track set by Italian trainer Jacques Theolier, only finishing 11th after the first run. 

Pinturault, Yule and Zenhäusern (Alta Badia Slalom winner) failed to deliver as well, only placing 7th, 12th and 14th in the first run. The times were abysmally apart from the leader. Being 92 hundredths of a second slower than the leader was the best time set by the three.   

Photo credits: Teller Report, China Daily & Le Nouvelliste Switzerland

The athletes that adapted the best to conditions and course in the first half of the race were Clément Noël (last year’s winner of the Snow Queen trophy), Sebastian Foss-Solevaag and the Austrian duo Feller-Schwarz. They were the provisional Top-4 of the first run.  

The surprises of the morning were undoubtedly Filip Zubcic and Stefan Hadalin, who never placed better in Slalom (10th and 5th in the first run). Even though Zubcic made numerous mistakes in his run, the Croatian skier was only one second off the best time set by Noël. 

Zagreb was a big disappointment for the Italian ski team. 3rd place winner at the 3Tre and last year’s Zagreb’s 2nd runner-up Alex Vinatzer did not finish his run, straddling one of the gates in the middle section of his run. Mölgg and Gross did not qualify in the Top-30. Razzoli and Sala only settled for 27th and 28th place.

Photo rights: Ready Set Sport

Many athletes with high bib numbers made it into the second run. Atle Lie McGrath, the runner-up of the Gran Risa Giant Slalom, started 15th with bib number 44. Taking risks didn’t pay off for him, losing three positions from the first run. 

Michael Matt was the MVP of the second run, beating skiers that had an enormous time advantage against him and recovering from 26th place all the way to fourth. No one managed to beat him, not even Jakobsen, who is the king of resumption. With a 1:05 second bonus to Matt, the Swede fell at the steep part of the slope. Not giving up, he finished his run to collect points. 

Zubcic barely missed out on a provisional first place by one-hundredth of a second, yet scoring his best Slalom placement ever, finishing the race in fifth position. 

Photo credits: Romanski Photography

Only Straßer managed to set a competitive time to beat the resilient Michael Matt, albeit losing over eight-tenths of advantage to the Austrian. 

Marco Schwarz doubled his bonus against Straßer in the first half of the slope but lost 16 hundredths at the finish line, earning provisional second with only three athletes to go. 

Teammate Manuel Feller proved to be extremely consistent this season by never finishing out of the Top-4. During his run he risked everything to try to gain a significant advantage to win the Snow Queen race. Ten-hundredths of a second off the pace didn’t grant him the crown. 

Sebastian Foss-Solevaag and Clément Noël’s performances were not on their competitor’s level . Even though they had an enormous advantage over Straßer to start the race, both fell back the ranking list, losing out on a podium opportunity. 

An emotional Linus Straßer had the edge over the other skiers, with the Austrian duo Manuel Feller and Marco Schwarz to complete the podium. 

Photo credits: Teller Report

Straßer regretted that the race on the outskirts of the Croatian capital took place without fans, as almost all World Cup events over the last year.

“Normally we have a big crowd here cheering for us and now it’s just us, just the small skiing family,” Straßer said. “It’s mixed feelings but I am really happy for winning my first special Slalom event. Not having the fans next to us is weird but, still, the emotions in me are hyped up.”

The next race in Adelboden will be key for the 2020/2021 Slalom standings as well as for the Overall ranking, where Pinturault is just ahead of Kilde. Who will earn the discipline’s Crystal Globe?

Vinatzer’s first victory dreams shattered by Zenhäusern

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. 

Complete photo gallery here

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. 

Ramon Zenhäusern – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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).

Marco Schwarz, Podium – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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. 

Alex Vinatzer – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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. 

Alex Vinatzer – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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.  

Manfred Mölgg – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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.

Kristoffer Jakobsen – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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).

Alexis Pinturault & Henrik Kristoffersen – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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.”

Alex Vinatzer – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

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”.

Gran Risa, Alta Badia – photo rights: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Pinturalts steps out from Tomba’s shadow

The French Alpine Skiing superstar conquers for the first time the Gran Risa and ties with Alberto Tomba for the most wins in the Alpine Ski World Cup Giant Slalom discipline. 

Alexis Pinturault & Alberto Tomba – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Complete photo gallery here

By Daphne Seberich

The Gran Risa: one, if not, the most famous and spectacular Giant Slalom race of the Alpine Ski Men’s World Cup. An incredible steepness and technical challenges are characteristics that make the athletes look forward to this race. Whoever has conquered the icy snow track of the Italian mountain in the past is considered as one of the greatest of all time. 

Alta Badia – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Marcel Hirscher (six wins, six GS World Cup and eight Overall World Cup championships), Alberto Tomba (four race wins and GS World Cup and one Overall World Cup championship) and Ingemar Stenmark (one win, seven GS World Cup and three Overall World Cup championships), legends of Alpine Skiing, have all won the race held in Alta Badia. It led to Tomba and Hirscher winning the Crystal Globe of the Giant Slalom discipline respectively four and five times during the season they triumphed at the Gran Risa. Could this be the year Pinturault finally wins the Overall World Cup trophy he, by the skin of one’s teeth, lost to Aleksander Aamodt Kilde the past season?

Alberto Tomba – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Nobody managed to do better than the 29-year-old Frenchman (2’27’’19), the leader at the end of the first run. Top-athletes like Kranjec (sixth after the first run), Zubcic (second after the first run) and Odermatt (GS World Cup current leader, third after the first run) set very competitive times as well, putting pressure on the leader starting last in the second run. 

A big surprise of the morning session was 20-year-old Norwegian Atle Lie McGrath, who, after starting with bib number 29, qualified for the second run in fourth place.

Atle Lie McGrath – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

The Italian Ski Team could not have done worse on home soil. The best-ranked and favorite of the ‘Azzurri’ Luca De Aliprandini missed the gates right at the start of his first run, resulting in a DNF. Many other Italian athletes did not complete the course as well. Riccardo Tonetti, a Bolzano native, ended up to be the only ‘Azzurro’ to manage to qualify for the second run. 

Hannes Zingerle, born and raised in Alta Badia, suffered from an incident in the end zone, missing out on a potential spot in the Top-30. During his interview with Ready Set Sport, he explained how the fall happened and how mistakes affect him mentally in preparation for the next races. 

Video rights: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

“Just before the finish line, I hit a snow wave being too far in a backward lean. That put me out of balance. Making it to the end was just impossible”, said Zingerle, “At the moment, things are not going as I’d wish they were”.

Answering the question regarding his psychological state, Zingerle explained how being a professional implies psychological preparation and failures are to be expected and dealt with accordingly. “I mean, it is normal that some races are not going as you wished for, but you still have to fight through those moments”, says Zingerle. “With training, patience and a lot of hard work you get back on track.”

Filip Zubcic answered some questions as well ahead of the second run. After winning the Giant Slalom race in Santa Caterina Valfurva on the 5th of December and placing third at the one on the 7th, he explained what his expectations at the Gran Risa were. He is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the Giant Slalom Crystal Globe this season as well as a contender for the Overall championship. 

Video rights: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Zubcic commented on the conditions of the slope as well: “The terrain is really tricky, it’s difficult to find the rhythm and because the terrain is changing a lot the snow is not so easy”. 

At the start of the second run, the only qualified Italian skier Riccardo Tonetti set the fastest time and kept the leadership of the race until German Alexander Schmidt managed to beat the ‘Azzurro’. The ‘Bolzanino’ ended up ranking eleventh.

In an interview with RAI Ladinia, Tonetti expressed his feelings about his performance and his physical shape, having just recovered from a bone fracture in his hand. He was very pleased by his result, but not from the overall level his teammates at FISI (Federazione Italiana Sport Invernali) displayed. The public at the Gran Risa traditionally played a big factor for him and he felt that the passion of fans was missing at the most special Giant Slalom race of the season. 

Swiss skier Justin Murisier was the provisional leader when Norwegian sensation McGrath, who, even though, made a substantial mistake in his run, incredibly set the fastest time, putting him at the top of the ranking with only three athletes to go. 

Atle Lie McGrath – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

Filip Zubcic, who had high expectations before the second run, only managed to finish 9th ahead of the last remaining skier Alexis Pinturault. 

Pinturault didn’t have the best run, but it was good enough to secure him the race win ahead of McGrath for only 0.07 seconds. 

The winner of the 2020 Alta Badia Giant Slalom event said: “This year I was always close to the podium in the giant slalom, but I did not manage to take the podium for a matter of hundredths. McGrath did an incredible race already in the first run, given his bib number, and he pushed even more in the second run. It wasn’t easy, but I did everything I could to be ahead, and I made it. It was great to win in front of Alberto Tomba and to know that I reached his record number of giant slalom victories: I am so proud of this achievement because it brings me closer to a legend like him. I think that the organizers did a great job in grooming and preparing the slope today, and this is evidenced by the fact that many athletes with a high bib number managed to finish the first run in the top 30 positions. The slope was really good also in the second run’’.

Alexis Pinturault – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

McGrath was very excited about getting on the podium for the first time in his career and commented on his second place: “Never before have I been as speechless as I am today after the race. At the start, I thought that I only wanted to enjoy myself, also because it was the first time that I could do the entire slope of the Gran Risa since last year we had to start from lower down due to the weather. I really enjoyed it. And if you enjoy what you are doing, it is easier. With my first podium, I caught up with my dad, who took second place in a World Cup Slalom (Aare 1988). Now I want to edge him out”.

Atle Lie McGrath – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

The podium was completed by the Swiss Justin Murisier (third, 0.24 seconds behind), who showed up at the press conference wearing a mask with a picture of his smile: “In a period like this, I am happy to bring some joy and smiles because we must hope for better times. Getting on my first podium here is fantastic. I can’t find the right words to describe what I feel. I have been racing in the World Cup since 2010 and I have had to get over so many injuries, including four to my right knee. I am convinced that this slope loves me because I was fourth here in 2017. Anyway, it’s mutual love. I adore it”.

Podium – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport

The athletes have a long season ahead. Who will prevail? 

Overall standings 20/12/20 – photo credits: Daphne Seberich for Ready Set Sport