Khoroshilov writes history in Schladming
SCHLADMING, Austria – In tonight’s slalom race in Schladming, Russian Alexander Khoroshilov made history as after putting together two flawless runs he claimed the first men’s Alpine World Cup victory for Russia ever since Alexander Zhirov won his last race, a giant slalom in Laax in 1981.
Khoroshilov put himself on the “ones to watch” list early this season as he kept showcasing some very consistent skiing earning himself seven top ten finishes, including a podium in Are, before his big breakthrough race tonight in Schladming. Under a tick snowfall and in front of thousands of cheering fans, Khoroshilov laid out two of the most impressive runs seen all season.
After clocking the fastest time in the first run, Khoroshilov managed not to get intimidated by the thousands of cheering Austrians along Planai and attacked for a second time the steep slalom hill to finish an impressive 1.44 seconds ahead of Italian Stefano Gross who finished in second place and 1.51 seconds ahead of Felix Neureuther who finished third.
“I am extremely happy. I was able to put together two good runs, I had a good feeling on skis all along and when you feel good you can ski fast,” Khoroshilov said in an interview after his victory.
Khoroshilov showcased some nerves of steel tonight as he kept his cool and managed not to get overwhelmed by the crazy Schladming atmosphere.
“You can’t see the crowd when you are at the top so that makes you think about it less. But there was a lot of pressure on me after the first run and maybe I don’t show it a lot as I try to block it and stay focused,” he explained.
Neureuther, who is currently sitting 66 points ahead of Hirscher in the slalom standings was full of praise for Khoroshilov but also a bit surprised by the poised emotions the Russian skier showcased after his victory.
“I was very impressed with how Alexander crossed the finish line and celebrated with a small movement of the hand. If I had won my first World Cup ever and did so after leading in the first run and finishing 1.44 seconds ahead I would have totally freaked out,” Neureuther said. “It was pretty impressive how cool he was after winning the race, and I have huge respect for what he did today,” he continued.
Stefano Gross added a third podium to his name this season and was particularly happy about it as he was only eight after the first run, having struggled with visibility in the heavy snowfall.
“It was certainly a difficult day as the first run was not easy for me because of all the snow that collected on my goggles. I struggled to see where I was going. Luckily, conditions improved a bit in the second run and I was able to switch gears and ski more like I do in training and gain a few spots,” Gross explained.
Apart from Khoroshilov’s victory, there were more surprises in Schladming tonight, some not very pleasant especially for the home fans. Marcel Hirscher, who has not finished off the podium in slalom this year apart from a seventh place in Madonna di Campiglio and a DNF in Wengen struggled today in Schladming and finished only 14th, 2.65 seconds behind the winner.
Schladming was the last World Cup race for the men as in the next three weeks all the focus will be on the World Championships which start in Vail Beaver Creek next week.