Janka returns from heart surgery to win giant slalom in Slovenia
Carlo Janka celebrated his first victory of the season winning the ‘Classic’ giant slalom in Kranjska Gora on Saturday, ten days after undergoing a minor heart surgery. The reigning Olympic giant slalom champion covered the challenging ‘Podkoren’ slope in Northern Slovenian in 2 minutes and 27.05 seconds, only 2/100 of a second ahead of 19-year old Frenchman Alexis Pinturault and 12/100 in front of World Champion Ted Ligety, the winner in Kransjka Gora the past three years.
Austria’s Philipp Schoerghofer, who held a commanding lead after the opening leg, failed to finish the second heat as he crashed and missed a gate at the beginning of the second run. He won the previous World Cup giant slalom at Hinterstoder held early February.
Two other French skiers also made it to the top-five, Thomas Fanara and Cyprien Richard, and two other skied among the best eleven, confirming the strength of the French team in the specialty.
Ivica Kostelic only finished a far 18th yet ahead of his main rival in the overall World Cup, Aksel Lund Svindal, only 22nd this time. This allowed Ligety to increase his lead in the giant slalom standings. Ten days before the final race in Lenzerheide, the skier from Park City has now a lead of 77 points on his Norwegian rival.
“I’m very surprised but it is really a beautiful way to return,” Janka said as he won his first race since the 2010 Finals at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. “The surgery had been scheduled at the end of the season, but then we anticipated it. It was not easy to live with that in recent weeks. But things seem to work out fine for me now.”
“This victory is for sure special, also because it was pretty unexpected,” also commented the defending overall World Cup champion. “I had been hoping for a victory all year. It is good for my confidence.”
The Swiss Ski Federation revealed last month that medical exams had shown sudden changes in Janka’s heart rate in past month and he underwent a minor intervention on Feb. 23. The Swiss leader was also wearing a tiny electronic apparel during his race to record various parameters from his heart bits that will be exanimate next week by his doctors.
Ligety still in command.
Ligety was pleased to reinforce his commanding position in the giant slalom standings after that surprising competition. “It was an important race for me after my gold medal at the world championships last month, but I did not have a good feeling on that course this time, “ he told the press. “Now, anything can happen in the last race,” the American added. “A podium finish in always good, I didn’t get one so far this year on the World Cup tour.”
Cyprien Richard, the winner in January in Adelboden, is also the running for the giant slalom globe with a delay of 80 points on Ligety.
Alexis Pinturault, 16th after the first leg produced an extraordinary second leg to reach the first World Cup podium of his career. A two-time junior World Champion, the skier from Courchevel scored his first points last month finishing 6th in Super-G at Hinterstoder despite a very hight start-number. He has been considered for years as one of the greatest ski talents in his region.
“After my first run, I thought I still had a chance for a good position and I attacked hard,” he explained. “In fact I really achieved a remarkable second leg. To finish 2/100 off Janka, just in front of Ligety is really something incredible”, said the young Frenchman, who won the world junior giant slalom title in January at Crans-Montana.
Overall World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished the race in 18th place.
The race is to be followed by a slalom on Sunday where Kostelic will need to fight hard to retain his lead in the World Cup standings. His closest rival, the new World Champion Jean-Baptiste Grange, showed last week in Bansko that he remains in good shape and ready for another big result in Slovenia. Also aiming for a new triumph here is last year’s winner Reinfried Herbst., from Austria, 2nd in Bansko a week ago.
Contributed by MMJL