It's three times times the top of the podium for Hoefl-Riesch in Levi
LEVI, Finland – What an exciting second run here in Levi! With a combined time of 1 minute, 55.58 seconds Maria Hoefel- Riesch “steals” the victory form first run’s leader and home favorite Tanja Poutiainen who finishes second 0.55 seconds behind the German. Third after the first run, Mikaela Shiffrin kept her nerves calm despite the young age, at only 17 she earns her second career’s podium, just .19 behind the 16 years older Poutiainen.
“It’s always good to start the season with a victory,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “The first race in Soelden was not easy; I was recovering from a bad flue so this is a much better start. I am almost 28 now and even though I might be counted among the older crew, especially if compared to Mikaela, I sure feel I have a lot more to give and am looking forward to the next races.”
The day before the race, Poutiainen admitted it was always special to race in Levi and that she could somewhat feel the pressure of performing in front of the home crowd. Saturday she didn’t disappoint her supporters. After the first run she was in a great position to repeat her result from 2004, when she won the slalom in Levi the first year the race was established, but a few small mistake cost her the top of the podium and she finished second.
“I was disappointed for maybe half a second after crossing the finish line. But that must be normal when you are leading in the first run. Maria and I talked about the situation before the second run – the first year the Levi race took place there were two slaloms and she won one and I won the other. So, we commented how it would be great if both of us could be on the podium together after so many years,” Poutiainen commented.
16 years older then Shiffrin, Poutiainen sees the young competition as a challenge to keep working hard more then as a threat.
“I don’t feel old but experienced. For the younger ones, they have this fire and they just go and ski, there is not much thinking so it’s good to have Mikaela on the podium with us today. Make me confident to know that you can be good when you are really young and you can also do so when you are somewhat older.”
At her early age, Shiffrin is quickly making a name for herself in the sport. With two podiums under her belt she has the confidence and the nerves equal to those of much more experienced skiers.
“All I knew was that needed to do as I did in training. My goal was to stay calm and do what I know best. I get this feeling as if I am flying down the course and I had it in Lienz last year when I got my first podium…now I get it more and more often which must be a good thing,” the young American said. “It’s a great boost of confidence to start the season like this, I feel good and will try to keep working hard.”
If Hoefl-Riesch and Poutiainen were full of praise for the young American, she is still getting adjusted to the idea that she is standing on the podium with ladies who have won discipline and Overall titles in their careers.
“It’s starting to sink in that I might be part of this crew I have been looking up to for so long. Everyone is so nice and it feels like a big family, I like that. Now I just can’t wait to go home, sleep in my own bed, train in Vail and prepare for Aspen…”
Today’s biggest favorite, Marlies Schild started the season far from how she planned. All eyes were on her and whether she could equal the all-time ladies’ World Cup record for most wins in the slalom discipline, but the Austrian didn’t cross the finish line.
“ I was late on a gate before the flat and simply didn’t get back in time to make it to the next gate so I straddled and the race was over. It’s things that happen in this sport and all I can do is go home and look forward to the next races,” a disappointed Schild said.
Of all the World Cup Tour stops, the Lapland one is always somewhat special. Apart from the stunning scenery, Levi is special as the whole town lives for the event. If during the day you can hardly see people walking around the snowy downtown roads, the bib draw and race draw out hundreds of people to support the athletes. The walk from the road to the finish area is a showcase for the best products the region has to offer and having a local in the lead just adds to the whole experience.
Tomorrow it’s the men’s turn and as the slopes seems to be in great shape, with the hope that the weather cooperates we should be in for another day of exciting skiracing.
First run kicks off at 10am (CET), so stay tuned!
by Ana Jelusic