Hofmeister and Karl prevail in Rogla's second PGS
Ramona Hofmeister (GER) and Benjamin Karl (AUT) have claimed victory in the second of two parallel giant slalom races of the FIS Snowboard World Cup tour which have been staged in Rogla, Slovenia this weekend therefore marking the last chance for riders to meet the international criteria to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.
With the qualifier period officially coming to an end today, the stakes were even higher than usually with some of the big names also trying to secure a spot in their national teams for South Korea. One of them was Benjamin Karl.
While being one of the highest decorated riders on the Alpine Snowboard World Cup circuit with four World Championship titles as well as two Olympic medals to his belt plus having podiumed at all major events since 2009, it might have been a little weird that this icon of Austrian raceboarding still had to deliver in Slovenia.
But thrown back by an ankle injury suffered during training for the World Cup opener in Carezza last December, today's race was just his third of the current season.
But backed with a third rank finish yesterday, the father of one was able to keep the momentum.
After surviving his close ¼ and ½ finals against Tim Mastnak (SLO; +0.04) and Roland Fischnaller (ITA; + 0.07) the 32-year-old finally got back on winning ways by prevailing over Radoslav Yankov (BUL) in the men's final.
He therefore not only secured his career's 16th World Cup win but also his third Olympic Winter Games.
“During my injury break I worked a lot to improve my mental strength. And I'm also almost racing without any pain again which is very important when you compete on such a rough terrain. I already had proved that I'm in a good shape this weekend but I'm happy that I was able to secure my Olympic spot by bringing home good results,” Karl said.
While he had snatched a last-minute ticket to Pyeongchang, Ramona Hofmeister had already booked her trip to the Winter Games before going into this final qualifier weekend.
However, things eventually kind of brought her on the same level with Karl as the 21-year-old got injured during training prior to yesterday's race which she finished in 20th position.
“Yesterday was bad as my left foot did hurt after a training accident. I tried to calm it down with physio, and it worked out. I didn't expect to be able to race for the win though,” she explained after the flower ceremony.
But as usual, things turn out to your favour when you expect them the least and finally being almost pain-free the 2016 Junior World Champion got into the rhythm earning her career's second by beating Austria's Sabine Schoeffmann with the tiny advantage of 0.17 seconds in the women's final.
“I can't believe it. It's the next win, this time in PGS. I'm super happy. It's a great feeling, and I guess that I'm now ready for the Olympics,” cheered the Bavarian who therefore became the second female rider this season to win a PGS event after Ester Ledecka (CZE) had clinched four wins in four races. However, the rider from Prague had to sit out today's event due to a cold.
Alena Zavarzina (RUS) rounded out the podium as third crossing the finish line ahead of Daniela Ulbing (AUT) in the small final.
Roland Fischnaller (ITA) had the whip hand over Sylvain Doufour (FRA) in the men's battle for third.
The Alpine Snowboard World Cup tour will continue from 26th to 28th January with two parallel giant slalom races staged in Bansko, Bulgaria.