Val Gardena, men’s Super-G 2010: the Austrian ‘Empire’ strikes back

17 December 2010 12:57

After a difficult 2009/2010 season, the Austrian speed specialists achieved an impressive comeback in the early part of this winter, celebrating their third victory in the fourth speed event of the season.

Michael Walchhofer, who started the party with a superb win at Lake Louise last month, claimed another race today at Val Gardena winning the third Super-G race of the season – enjoying his fourth triumph on the classical’ Saslong course. Four of his teammates too ended the race among the top-10 including a surprising Benjamin Raich, who missed the podium by only 16/100 of a second.

Two weeks ago, Georg Streitberger dominated the field in Beaver Creek’s Super-G. Switzerland’s Tobias Grünenfelder, the unexpected Super-G winner in Lake Louise, has been the only one so far able to beat them once.

The other overall World Cup favorites had a more difficult day instead – Switzerland’s Carlo Janka, 2nd here a year ago, had to be content with a less exciting 8th place after a race marked by many mistakes while his teammate Didier Cuche was only 11th.

USA’s Bode Miller made a major error in the upper pat of the course and lost much time. He could have reached the podium without that problem as well as last year’s winner, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal who fell in the middle of his run.

A new record for Walchhofer?

Now Walchhofer is aiming for an unprecedented double win in Val Gardena where nobody so far managed to win both the Super-G and the downhill in two consecutive days. An eventual fifth victory would also put him ahead of former ski legends Franz Klammer and Kristian Ghedina who both won four races on the Italian slope.

“Tomorrow’s race could be the ultimate test for me, for sure I wish to excel once more on that slope which suits me so well,” the Austrian veteran told the press at the post-race press conference.

“The two races I have won so far this season were sort of nice surprises even for me. I didn’t really expect to ski so well again today and to be so fast despite the difficult weather conditions,” he added.

“I guess I skied again so well today because of my relaxed attitude and my profound desire to enjoy more stimulating minutes steaming down a last time that course I love so much. Sometimes I suddenly realize that I’ll not come back here as a racer in the coming years but I don’t feel any nostalgia about that situation. It’s just great to be able to go though thrilling moments as those ones.”

“Last year, I put a lot of pressure on me to end my career on a high note, but it didn’t work at all that way. You can’t force your destiny. When I decided last spring to race another last season, I told myself that I need to focus on my skiing and not on the result.”

“You do ski better and faster when you have fun and don’t feel obliged to win. This definitely helped me to do so well in past weeks but now it could be quite a challenge to remain so relaxed because another win here tomorrow would be really special. I would be the first to capture both races here in two days and leave Gardena with a total of five career wins – it would be something really extraordinary. So I’m really curious to see how I’ll behave and face that challenge tomorrow. For sure, I’m happy now to have done that extra-season.”

Benni Raich is back

It was also an exciting day for Benni Raich who has not done so well in Super-G for a long time – when he came in 2nd at Lake Louise in November 2009. The skier from Pitztal moved up in 2nd place in the overall standings two weeks after being obliged to pull out of the competitions at Beaver Creek because of strong pains at his back.

He had a successful comeback weekend at Val d’Isère afterwards, reaching an unexpected podium in slalom behind his teammate Marcel Hirscher. Now his next goal is to fight for his first season win at Alta Badia, one of the very few ‘classical’ giant slaloms that he has not won yet.

“I’m really pleased by my comeback so far, I did much better than I thought after my hernia problems in Colorado,” he admitted. “It’s means a lot to me to achieve such a performance in that specialty, I have always aimed becoming a solid and consistent allrounder,” the 32-year-old added.

“It’s too early to start any speculation about my chances to get another overall title for the moment, my main goal is to feel able to fight for more wins in the coming weeks and month,” also commented the former double Olympic champion who finished five times 2nd in the overall standings after clinching the big crystal globe in March 2006.

Raich has planned a day of giant slalom training on Saturday to be ready for the demanding ‘Gran Risa’ course at Badia on Sunday. He will need all his energy and determination to have a real chance to seriously challenge specialists as USA’s Ted Ligety or his colleague Hirscher, who showed at Val d’Isère that he is also ready to win another giant slalom race.

 

Contributed by PkL