Stephanie Brunner (AUT) claims the first gold medal in Junior Championships
Stephanie Brunner (AUT) took the first gold medal by winning the ladies slalom at the FIS Junior Alpine World Ski Championships in Roccaraso. Paulina Grassl (SWE) claimed the silver medal while Petra Vlhova (SVK) completed the podium with bronze medal. The result was some unexpected faces on the podium. Brunner had not won a race at any level since December, and that was a FIS-B circuit GS.
The race started already at 08:00, to protect the course from the warm temperatures and sun. With a challenging course for the young athletes, it was two Swedes leading after the first run. Emelie Wikstroem and Natalie Eklund both finished below 50 seconds, ahead of Stephanie Brunner (3rd place after first run). If it was the warm sun or the challenging course that made it, is uncertain, but coming into to the final and second run, the Swedes had to see Brunner take away the lead and give up the second place to their team-mate Grassl. The 18-year old Austrian could celebrate her very first gold medal at a Junior Championships, and will be awarded with a spot in the World Cup finals in Schladming in 2 weeks time.
A total of 111 girls competed in the slalom, with several great individual performances. In stunning sunshine and the southern Italian Apennines glittering, it was a perfect start of the 9 day long Junior Championships. Most of these athletes have never competed in a Junior World Championships before, and by being part of such a great event is simply an honour for some of them. Three young Liberian girls were thrilled to have finished second round, despite not having the best overall times. For them cheering for the others and participating in such an event is just as important as fighting for medals.
Noone less than the all time high alpine star Alberto Tomba came to visit Roccaraso today and watching the young girls perform in slalom. Handing out flowers to the top 3 girls, it was a clearly proud Tomba being back in the circuit.
Having succesfully completed the first competition day in Roccaraso, the ladies are up for giant slalom tomorrow, while the men will have their Junior Championships debut with downhill.
Quotes from the medaillists:
Stephanie Brunner (AUT), gold:
“I didn't expect this at all, but I am very satisfied with how it turned out. I look forward to the future now and cannot wait to see what it brings. First we have more competitions in Roccaraso though, and I will do my best to fight for more medals".
Paulina Grassl (SWE), silver:
“I'm very happy with my performance today. I did a safe but fairly fast first round, followed by a great second round. I dared to go all in the whole way, even if I didn't know if it would work. I would never have expected this, but I had faith in myself. In terms of the coming competitions I've been doing well in GS lately, and I hope to continue where I was today".
Petra Vlhova (SVK), bronze:
“My first round was not as expected but my second round was good and I'm very happy with it. It's my first medal in such a big Championships and it means a lot to me. My goal was to perform well in slalom, which I know can say I did, and then I hope to position at top 10 in the GS".