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‘Mindset the key’ as Sarrazin headlines surprise stars of electrifying season

Mar 28, 2024·Alpine Skiing
Sarrazin won in Wengen (pictured) Bormio and twice in Kitzbuehel this season
Sarrazin won in Wengen (pictured) Bormio and twice in Kitzbuehel this season

In a season that had everything, Cyprien Sarrazin (FRA) was far from the only new name to regularly appear at the top of Audi FIS World Cup leaderboards, but perhaps no one else quite matched the Frenchman’s spectacular emergence as a superstar of the sport. 

Take the downhill. Long known as an extreme risk taker prone to the odd standout performance, Sarrazin turned up for the start of the 2023/24 season with just two career top-10 finishes to his name. But after a DNF in the opening race in Val Gardena, the 29-year-old finished: 4th-1st-2nd-2nd-1st-1st.

Remarkably, a man who had only ever ended up in a super-G top-10 once, his record in the second speed discipline was almost as good. Sarrazin collecting a win down the Lauberhorn in Wengen plus two fourth-place finishes.

The first thing is the pleasure I took during the runs and the performances I was able to make; that’s the most important (thing) for me,” Sarrazin answered when asked what standouts about the best season of his life.

Sarrazin kickstarted his extraordinary season in Bormio

The fact his first four career World Cup victories came down the most iconic of tracks in Bormio (downhill), Wengen (super-G) and Kitzbuehel (where he completed the downhill double) only adds to the lustre.

The way I skied on these legendary slopes will stay on my mind and of course the victories too,” Sarrazin added.

‘Now it’s not luck’

The principle reason for this remarkable uptick in form?

Most important the work that helped me to be at this level was during the summer and the autumn too, the work I did on my mind,” the Frenchman said.

“I was able during my career to do one race pretty good but then I struggled a lot to get back, to find that feeling again. I was really thinking too much.

Sarrazin celebrates in Kitzbuehel in 2024
Sarrazin did the downhill double in Kitzbuehel

“Before it was more or less luck, now it’s not luck, it was work and I worked really well.”

The downhill success in Kitzbuehel sums it up perfectly. Twelve months after a huge crash on the Streif Sarrazin came back with a perfect attitude .

 “The second race (win) in Kitzbuehel was really the best race of my life,” Sarrazin explained.

 “The feeling was extreme with the crowd and everything. I said to myself ‘You can do this’,”

Muzaferija making waves

If Sarrazin’s story was the standout, Elvedina Muzaferija’s tale was not far behind. The skier from Bosnia and Herzegovina finished 2023 ranked 47th in downhill and 48th in super-G and dreaming of simply scoring World Cup points. Now she is a firm fixture at the top table.

“I am super happy, surprised of course,” Muzaferija said after bagging two top-10s (including a historic fourth in downhill) and five additional top-20 finishes.

 She is already the first skier from her country to score World Cup points let alone break the top-10. An appearance at the World Cup Finals in Saalbach, Austria was also a first for a BIH skier.

All this despite facing challenges that many rivals never dream of. 

“The summer was really hard. We did not get a lot of training. We stayed in Europe, we didn’t go to South America,” said the 24-year-old who hopes her days of budget worries are finally behind her.

“The start of the season was not easy, I crashed the first three races and it was like I knew it should come but the goal was just to get a couple of points or at least try to get some points.”

“It was crazy,” she added, having instigated skiing fever back home. “I am happy I can make people in Bosnia proud.”

Changing the narrative

Other skiers that made people all over the world sit up and smile in happy surprise included experienced men’s pair Guglielmo Bosca (ITA) and Nils Allegre (FRA). The 30-year-old Italian made his World Cup bow back in 2016 but he chose this season to produce the skiing of his life.

Fifth in the final super-G standings was just reward for consistent excellence, highlighted by second place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. That race was won by Alegre, his maiden triumph.

Allegre and Bosca both produced career-best results in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

On the women’s side, Americans AJ Hurt and Jacqueline Wiles made sure it was not all about a certain teammate of theirs. In fact, the 23-year-old Hurt made a major statement of intent, grabbing podiums in both GS and slalom. 

At the other end of her career, Wiles showed that hope never dies. Racing in her 13th season after battling seemingly endless injury, the 31-year-old recorded her best ever World Cup result, second in the downhill in Crans Montana.

Stephanie Venier’s (AUT) return to form was arguably even more impressive. Victorious for the first time in five years, the Austrian ended her campaign as the fourth best downhill (four points behind third) and fourth best super-G skier.

 The irrepressible Zrinka Ljutic (CRO) rounds things off. Three successive second places in the slalom only tell half the story so tune in next week when the 20-year-old will give a full rundown on her remarkable season.