2nd season win for Mario Matt
Proving once more that he is by far the best second-run-racer on the slalom tour, Austria’s Mario Matt celebrated another impressive victory today in Kranjska Gora where he moved up from 5th to 1st place not holding anything back in the second leg.
The Tyrolian veteran, who had accomplished an emotional comeback last week at Bansko, Bulgaria, winning his first World Cup race in two years, beat America’s Kasper Nolan and Sweden’s Alex Baeck, the fastest skier of the opening run, by 9/100 of a second.
It’s also ‘Super-Mario’s’ second triumph on the demanding Slovenian slalom course where he already finished atop of the standings four years ago in 2007.
Another Swede, Andre Myhrer came in 4th - 26/100 shy of attaining the podium - while Italy’s Manfred Moelgg ended a disappointing 5th, 70/100 of a second behind the winning time after clocking the second fastest time in the morning.
Ivica Kostelic, posted the 5th best total combined time but was disqualified afterwards by the race jury for having straddled a gate in the upper part of the course. He missed a great opportunity to increase his lead in the slalom standings as France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange, his toughest rival for the slalom cup, also straddled a gate earlier in the morning. This was the second time within a week that the Croatian failed to finish after straddling a gate in the Bansko slalom!
Kostelic still leads the standings with 478 points ahead of Grange, 2nd with 442 but for Myhrer, 3rd with 428, the slalom globe is still within reach in two weeks at the Finals in Lenzerheide.
“It is pretty amazing to win the big ‘Classsic’. That means a lot to me. I’m incredibly happy with this success,” said the 31-year-old Matt, who won his 13th World Cup slalom in the final race prior to the Finals in Switzerland. He also captured a super-combined a few years ago in Wengen.
“I felt very relaxed this morning after my great comeback last Sunday in Bulgaria. My results have been quite good in past weeks and I was really confident too. The difficult slope perfectly suits my style. You have to be a good technical skier to perfectly handle the last steep part. Before heading into second run, I strongly believed in my chances to reach the podium. You surely also need some luck to win such a race but the other favorites made more mistakes than me.”
In the Adelboden slalom in January, after a disastrous season-start because of technical difficulties with his equipment, Matt finally came in 4th wearing bib number 43. In the following weeks, he kept on improving his international rankings and his confidence. He was again 4th – and best Austrian – last week in the FIS Worlds at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Interestingly enough, the two-time World Champion has been winning slalom races for more than ten years. He captured his first World Cup race eleven years ago when he finished atop of the standings in Kitzbühel, Austria. He suffered a series of painful shoulder injuries afterwards but proved his determination and his class when he managed a first comeback afterwards in 2005 before getting his second gold medal in 2007 at Are, Sweden.
The exciting Kranjska Gora slalom was followed by thousands of fans, who enjoyed great weather conditions that also allowed two young talents to confirm their potential.
USA’s Kasper Nolan, for the first time among the best-10 last week in Bulgaria, became the first American to reach a World Cup podium in slalom for a long time. It has not been the case since Bode Miller’s 2nd place finish at Levi, in Finland, in November 2008.
Axel Baeck is one of the many top slalom specialists produced by the Swedish team in recent seasons. There is also Myhrer, who won a race at Zagreb in January and Jens Byggmark, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist.
The technical skiers will now take a week-long break and get ready for the Finals at Lenzerheide where only the top-25 of the World Cup standings are automatically qualified. The speed skiers are returning to the slopes in a few days at Kvitfjell, in Norway, where two downhills and a super-G are scheduled.
Contributed by MMJL