Pinturault celebrates victory in Wengen
WENGEN, Switzerland – Crisp winter air and a clear blue sky were today’s background for the Super Combined race on the Lauberhorn slope.
After we saw Christoph Innerhofer set the pace for the Downhill leg of the Super Combined, and then lost all the advantage in the Slalom, finishing fifth at the end of the race; Alexis Pinturault became walked away with the best time of the day.
The young French skier, who was 19th after the Downhill and normally specializes in Slalom and Giant Slalom skied an amazing Slalom run, earning himself his second victory of the season.
“Downhill is not easy, but my goal was to try not to be too far back in it and then to make a good Slalom run,” Pinturault said after winning today’s Super Combined. “I am happy the plan seems to have worked pretty well! I just tried to stay focused and ski well – when I saw all the Slalom specialists being slower than me I realized it might be possible to walk away with a win.”
One could wonder how does a technical skier prepare for one of the longest and most difficult Downhills in the world?
“This year I didn't train a lot of speed. Here in Wengen I had my first day of Downhill at the first training and my last day of Super G was only in Beaver Creek. So I think I've only done a total of four days of Downhill and Super G this year. My focus is still more in technical disciplines. I would like to become an all-round skier in the future but I am taking things step by step and so far am happy with the results.”
The top contender for moving up in the rankings after the Slalom was Ivica Kostelic, who has won an impressive six times in Wengen. Kostelic skied a solid Downhill run, finishing in 18th place, just ahead of Pinturault. But the Croatian champion was unable to keep up with the young Frenchman in the Slalom and had to settle for a second place, still achieving his first podium of the season.
Kostelic also became the first male skier to reach eight World Cup super combined podiums. The Croatian won the last super combined event on the men's World Cup circuit in February 2012 in Sochi, Russia, which was also his last World Cup win.
The Croatian was full of praises for Pinturault, and he seems excited to witness the sports battles the new generation of skiers will bring.
“First of all I would like to say congratulations to Alexis and Carlo, I think both had a great race,” Kostelic said. “Alexis is for sure on his way up and we will see a lot of him in the future. It’s good that Hirscher will get a great opponent and I foresee a lot of clashes in the future – it will just make the sport more exciting. All I can wish him is to stay healthy and he will become an even greater skier!”
Kostelic already holds the all-disciplines World Cup podium record at Wengen with 10, one ahead of Miller. By landing on the podium in today’s Super Combined, he matched the men's World Cup record of 11 podiums at a single venue.
“This is my 11th podium here in Wengen and I am really proud that I achieved so many great results at a resort that has so much history. I have a special connection to this place and today it brought me luck once again, I am very happy.”
Kostelic has been struggling with a painful knee through most of the season and even though surgery might be an option he and his team are considering, he wants to avoid it for as long as possible.
“The past month hasn’t been great for me, my knee didn’t let me race 100% so today’s result definitely makes me feel much better. My cartilage is damaged and it was swollen, which limited my movement and I was in constant pain when skiing. That didn’t allow me to train at 100% but we are doing our best to keep it under control. I will try to avoid surgery for as long as I can so the plan is to stick to therapy and hope for the best.”
It's been a long time in waiting for a podium for Carlo Janka, but today’s result in front of a cheering home crowd is a first sign that the Swiss Olympic and World Champion might be on his way back to the top of the result lists.
“I think my last podium was Kranjska Gora one or two years ago now. It sure feels like a really long time for me, and it has also been a really long time for the team, I hope this is a first step which will help us all go a little bit in another direction now,” Janka said. “I think the whole team needed this result and there are still a lot of races this season, including the World Championships and it’s not too late to still have a good end of the season.”
Today’s Super Combined race had 18000 spectators cheering for the racers, and as Switzerland has put at least one skier on the Super Combined podium on home snow in Wengen for the last six years, and put two skiers on the podium in three of those six years, they had high expectations from the home team.
“I think it's good for the home crowd for a Swiss skier to be on the podium again in Wengen. It’s a special place for me, when nothing works it works in Wengen and it's always fun to be here. Both the course and the crowd are fantastic!”
Janka’s focus over the years has been mostly on the speed disciplines and Giant Slalom, but today he showed some solid Slalom skills.
“The feeling was not really good and for me it was a really difficult Slalom. The reason is probably that during the summer there were only six or seven days when I trained on the short skis. I am sure that for the guys like Kostelic and Pinturault it's one of the easier ones, I can’t say the same for myself, actually I think for all the downhillers it was really tough.”
As Switzerland did not have a skier on any men's podiums so far this season, today came as a great boost of confidence for the whole team.
“The confidence is going up. Today we saw that we can be fast and I hope it's good for everyone tomorrow.”
Saturday is the ‘big day’ for Wengen as at 12.30 the Downhill kicks off and it’s always something special seeing the best skiers in the world heading down the Lauberhorn course at over 150 km/h.
by Ana Jelusic with the contribution of Infostrada Sports.
Check out our 'Behind the Scenes' Wengen video!
by Ana Jelusic with the contribution of Infostrada Sports.