Nicole Hosp became the eighth Austrian woman to win the Overall World Cup at the end of a nail-biting campaign in 2007 at the age of 23 and after having to settle last year for a runners-up spot was amongst the favourites from Austria’s dreaded Wunderteam to set the pace in the 2008/09 season. Having attended the famous ski academy at Stams with another young Austrian talent, Marlies Schild, the versatile all-rounder from Bichlach arrived on the World Cup scene on February 18, 2001 when as a 17-year-old she competed in the slalom at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany.
While still gaining experience also in the National championship and world junior events. The first time she actually managed to finish a World Cup race, however, was October of the following year when she finished 29th at Maribor in the giant slalom.
It was in the Junior World Championships held at Tarvisio in February, 2002 where at 18 years old she began to show the form which she has carried forward to today. Where the Italian border meets the Slovenian, the young Austrian skied to a bronze medal in the downhill, behind compatriot Astrid Vierthaler and gold medalist Julia Mancuso from the United States. She was edged out of the medal reckoning in the slalom in the same event.
In October of the same year, driven on by her success at junior level, Hosp tasted her first victory at the senior level when on the 26th in Soelden she not only reached her first podium finish in her homeland but clinched World Cup victory in the giant slalom. That was the only win of the season but another five podium places, four in third place and a second place at Maribor in late January 2003 gave her a 10th place Overall World Cup placing.
Exactly one year after Hosp’s medal winning form at the Junior World Championships, the talented skier embarked on her first World Championships proper in Switzerland’s prestigious resort of St.Moritz, taking two medals back across the border. Before racing to finish third in the slalom behind Marlies Schild, her fellow Austrian who would become her great rival, and Janica Kostelic, she had clinched a silver medal in the combined, trailing once again behind the all-conquering Croat.
The 2003/04 World Cup season started in a positive vain when Hosp claimed her second victory and in the process ended an Austrian drought in the slalom event, which had gone back to 1999. At Madonna di Campiglio on December 17th she managed to clock the fastest times in both runs to beat Sweden’s Anja Paerson by 29/100 of a second. This victory was added to six other podium finishes in eleven races competed and would have certainly challenged the Swede and Kostelic for the Crystal Globes at the end of the year if it were not for a freak accident in January of 2004. Although enjoying adrenaline highs in her free time with mountain climbing and inline skating, it was while jogging that she slipped on a sheet of ice and broke her ankle, putting an end to her season.
Hosp rediscovered her form towards the end of the 2005 season after recovering from a broken hand in August to step onto the podium in three of the last four races but had to put another win on hold until 2006. At Cortina D’Ampezzo she continued her positive form on Italian snow with a first place in the Giant Slalom and that win in mid-January provided a much needed confidence boost with the Turin Olympic Games looming on the horizon.
Paerson managed to exact revenge on Hosp for the previous slalom defeat when the Swede claimed the gold medal but the Austrian was satisfied to clinch the silver. She then only just missed out on a second medal two days later in the giant slalom, finishing fourth.
Hosp had signaled her intent to win the Overall title with her 4th place finish in 2006 and blended her technical skills perfectly with ability to ski at speed in 2007. Consistent performances kept her in contention despite being second best to rival Marlies Schild in the early part of the season. The World Championships in Are interrupted the World Cup season in early Febrauary and Nicole put opening disappointment behind her, she had finished off the podium in fourth place in both the slalom and combined, to win two medals in the final two events: a bronze in the downhill and gold in the giant slalom.
A nerve-wracking season reached its climax in the final two meets of the year with Schild reclaiming first place after victory in the penultimate race of the campaign to earn a 15 point lead going into the Finals at Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Hosp however stepped up with an outstanding performance in front of over 16000 spectators in the final two days of racing to claim the overall title, the first for an Austrian in five years of women’s skiing. The electric atmosphere in the Swiss Alps urged Hosp onto two victories in two days, in the slalom and giant slalom. Hosp’s win in the slalom had given her a slender 30 point margin before the giant slalom, but showing nerves of steel, she led after the first run and produced a fine second run to win the Crysral Globe also in that discipline in an Austrian clean-sweep.
After the highs of the previous year, Hosp maintained her consistent form, without retaining any of her titles however. Seven podiums including two wins in the slalom were not enough to fend off the challenge from the USA as Lindsey Vonn claimed the overall title, relegating Hosp to second place after a below par second half to the season. She also had to settle for second place in the slalom.
The 2009 season saw Niki get off to an decent start with a fourth and second place in Levi and Aspen respectively but unfortunately her season came to an abrupt end in Zagreb at the start of the new year. A fall in a training run prior to the race saw her damage her knee ligaments and she missed a full month of skiing. Hosp did make it back in time for the World Championships in February, competing in the GS, but she was far from her best form, although she did manage a podium finish in Ofterschwang in early March.
With 11 World Cup victories and 43 podium finishes in six seasons on the World Cup Nicole Hosp is one of the leading contenders for future seasons.