Maiden victory for Michael Matt at Kranjska Gora
As forecasted, uninterrupted rainfall marked the night between yesterday’s Giant Slalom and today’s Slalom in Kranjska Gora, but thanks to the efforts of the experienced course crew, the Podkoren slalom hill offered great conditions for today’s Pokal Vitranc slalom.
Austria’s Michael Matt was the one that handled the conditions the best and could celebrate his first career World Cup win. After a podium at the beginning of the season in Levi, Matt also came close to an exploit at the World Championships, where he was 3rd after the first run but finished 8th after some struggles in the second run. Here in Kranjska Gora, the 23 year old athlete seemed to fly over the ruts and laid down a fantastic second run, that no one after him would be able to beat.
"It's amazing, it's unbelievable when you stand out there in the finish area. When you're second after the first run and then the green light is in the second run when you're in the finish, it's amazing. I watched (the other racers) at the World Championships in St. Moritz and that wasn't good, so I didn't watch today. I didn't watch anyone, I just focused on me and my skiing and I'm really happy. I'v had a good experience in European Cup here on this hill and last year as well. I just like the hill and love to ski here."
One athlete particularly impressed in the first run, it’s Stefano Gross. The Italian had a season with lots of ups and downs. He scored some very good results, including a third place in Madonna di Campiglio, but failed to be constant as he skied out three times this season. In Kranjska Gora, he found his pace in both runs and managed to hold claim a second place, only +0.30 behind the winner Mario Matt.
"It feels extremely good because I've had a really difficult season. Unfortunately, I had a bad back problem in January and then the best race I could have done was when I was second after the first run in Kitzbuehel and in the second run, I straddled a gate right at the top. That could have probably totally changed my season if something had gone well at that point but it's been a terrible season for me and it really feels very good to be back on the podium this season. I had a great first run, but in the second run I had a few problems. It was bumpy, it was really hard to hold the line, but I was well prepared for the conditions with training in salty, spring snow."
In third place, Germany’s Felix Neureuther confirmed his good shape from the World Championships, where he collected a bronze medal. With two solid runs, he was able to secure the third spot on the podium, the 3rd in this World Cup season.
"It feels very good. I don't know how may times I've been on the podium here but it's a very, very special hill, technical, tough and the conditions are always tough too so I am very happy to be on the podium again. I had some problems at the beginning of the season until just right before the World Championships; I was struggling with my setup so I couldn't ski as I wanted but now, since the World Championships, it feels really good again."
The metronome Marcel Hirscher earned a 4th place in today’s race, enough to secures him the discipline globe, as he is now 110 points ahead of Henrik Kristoffersen with only one race to go. A huge mistake prevented the Norwegian to qualify for second run and score points for the cup today.
On the men’s side, this was the last regular World Cup stop of the season. After a week-end off due to travelling, the 25 best racer of each discipline are moving over to Aspen for the World Cup Finals from 15th to 19th March 2017.