Kristoffersen: 19-year-old winner of THE Nightrace
SCHLADMING, Austria – Henrik Kristoffersen grasped his first World Cup victory tonight in Schladming in front of 45000 cheering fans.
The 19-years-old Norwegian skied only his 23rd World Cup race today and managed to beat well know names like Marcel Hirscher and Felix Neureuther who finished 2nd and 3rd.
Kristoffersen has had a fantastic season so far and stood on the podium three times before his victory tonight, but still it came as somewhat of a surprise.
“I think I realize what’s going on but it’s kind of hard to say right away,” Kristoffersen said.
“But I know it’s real – I just won my first World Cup race! I didn’t expect it to happen so fast, I was hoping for it but it’s all still new to me. Last year my best place was an 11th place, it was my first season in World Cup and I seem to be taking big steps. This is also my first Night Slalom, and I hope this is just the beginning of great thing to come,” he added.
When he crossed the finish line, Hirscher and Neureuther lifted him on their shoulder in celebration, an extraordinary experience for a guy who only two years ago was admiring them on TV.
“I watched these two guys for a long time, I looked at Marcel’s skiing and try to adapt my skiing to his while keeping my own twist to it. I’m still their fan and it’s crazy what happened today,” he explained.
The respect is definitely mutual.
“Henrik has all my admiration, this young boy showed us all how it’s done. He is a very good skier, he has been constant and solid, and he told me he skied out only seven times in his whole senior career. It’ wasn’t a huge surprise that he could handle the pressure here in Schladming and win this race,” Neureuther said.
“He is 19 and this is a big advantage, it an age where it doesn’t matter if you ski out or do a mistake. Anything within the top 5 is a great success but now this is becoming normality and he has proved he is up to the expectations. He has brilliant technique and smart skiing. I would almost say that he is one of the leaders of a new generation that we can all learn from,” Hirscher added at the press conference.
Neureuther is on a roll this January and after winning Kitzbuehel only days ago, this podium was a last confidence booster before heading to Sochi. After a not perfect first run, the German took advantage of his coach’s course set and skied a perfect second one, moving up to the podium.
“It was so close between Marcel and me so I’m really happy to have earned a podium. The course set was so much harder than the first run, my coach set it and he made it tough. I like courses like that, they allow me to push hard and give me some advantage. I knew I was fast when I saw I was in the lead but I knew it was beatable,” Neureuther commented.
Las time he was here, he earned a gold World Championships medal and today Hirscher was aiming at the top step of the podium again, but sometimes pushing too hard might cost you one mistake too many…
“It’s skiracing and we all make mistakes. Today Henrik made the least and he won and I was second, that’s how things go. More mistakes, further from the top you go,” Hirscher made it sound simple.
“My skiing was brilliant at the top but the course was not easy and it had a few tough sections, very technical ones. There were some 50000 people screaming and I always try to get faster and faster when people cheer. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage because I push over the limit. This is a brilliant race, I live 30min from here and I have great memories from here, it’s great to be back to the place which earned me my first Overall title and my gold World Championships medal,” he concluded.