With the clock steadily counting down to PyeongChang, the final push for precious points until the qualification deadline of 21st January is a major focus across all disciplines in a full week of action on the snow.
It simply doesn’t get any better. Taking the Audi FIS Ski World Cup classic Lauberhorn downhill win in front of the home crowd, on a legendary course under blue skies, Beat Feuz (SUI) was the downhill king in Wengen ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) and Matthias Mayer (AUT).
On Sunday, Marcel Hirscher (AUT) added to his collection of accolades, winning his first-ever slalom in Wengen, one of the rare feats he had yet to accomplish in his career. It was the fifth victory in a row for the Austrian, who once again was a step ahead of the Wengen slalom winner the past two years, Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen.
The alpine combined also saw many milestones as Victor Muffat- Jeandet (FRA) earned his first career World Cup victory in Friday’s race. Pavel Trikhichev (RUS) also claimed his first podium in second place, while Peter Fill’s (ITA) third place finish was enough to earn him his first alpine combined globe.
In Bad Kleinkircheim (AUT), the Italian ladies were the toast of the town. With the programme modified due to weather conditions, the super-G was staged on Saturday with Federica Brignone (ITA) emerging as the surprise winner. Lara Gut (SUI) came close to her first victory since suffering an ACL tear last season 0.18 off the pace. Austrian Conny Huetter, squeezed to her first super-G podium finish of the season.
The Italians continued their winning ways in Sunday’s downhill in grand fashion, earning the nation’s first-ever downhill podium sweep in one of most dominant performances by a single nation on the ladies’ tour in recent history. Sofia Goggia led the charge, followed by Federica Brignone 1.10 seconds behind and Nadia Fanchini in third place.
Sweden's Hanna Falk and Italy's Federico Pellegrino won the first-ever FIS Cross-Country World Cup presented by Viessmann City Sprints in Dresden (GER). The 1.2 km course took place along the banks of the Elbe River, with the city's old town in view across the water. It was a first win for both athletes this season and the first win for Falk since January 2010 in Otepaa (EST).
Day two in Dresden featured the Team Sprint competition. The Swedish II team (Ingemarsdotter, Dahlqvist) won just ahead of the Swedish I team (Falk, Nilsson) by 0.15 seconds in the ladies’ competition. On the men's side, Pellegrino struck again with a big move on the small climb before the finish that brought Italy I (Noeckler, Pellegrino) to the top of the podium. In second place was the veteran duo from Sweden I (Peterson, Joensson) +1.07 behind.
In the preamble to this week’s FIS Ski Flying World Championships in Oberstdorf (GER), the top jumpers took to the hill in Kulm (AUT). Norway's Andreas Stjernen won the first Ski Flying event of the winter with jumps of 229 m and 226 m. The 29-year-old came in ahead of his teammate Daniel Andre Tande while third place surprisingly went to former Ski Flying World Champion in 2010 Swiss veteran Simon Ammann. Sunday’s competition unfortunately had to be cancelled due to strong winds.
On the ladies’ World cup tour, it is building up for an Olympic showdown led presently by Maren Lundby (NOR) who won both competitions in Sapporo (JPN). Both days, the same three athletes were on the podium with Sara Takanashi finishing third and second, respectively while German Katharina Althaus went second and third. All eyes will be on the trio in Pyeong Chang for what promises to be a thrilling Olympic competition.
The Nordic Combined World Cup presented by Viessmann finally got back to business in Val di Fiemme (ITA) with a three competition weekend, which proved to be a duel between Germany and Norway as both teams put in strong performances.
"Maybe my best competition ever", Jorgen Graabak commented after the first of three events. The Norwegian was convincing with his jump and an equally strong race to finish 18.3 seconds ahead of German Johannes Rydzek.
But the Germans got back to their winning ways in Saturday’s team event taking first and second place, followed by Norway in third place. In nail-biting finish Vinzenz Geiger took victory together with Eric Frenzel after outsprinting teammate Johannes Rydzek for the win. Rydzek/Riessle finished 0.7 seconds behind.
On Sunday, Norway returned to the top of the podium as Jan Schmid (NOR) held on to the overall World Cup lead in a sprint to the finish. He edged Austrian Lukas Klapfer, who earned his second podium of the weekend and Fabian Riessle, who beat teammate Johannes Rydzek for the third rank (+8.3).
Freestyle Skiing, Snowboard and Freeski
One of the most storied venues in freestyle skiing, Deer Valley (USA), saw more history made on its slopes on Wednesday night when Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) claimed his 12th successive victory and the 47th of his career to become the all-time leader in mogul skiing wins. The Canadian followed up the next day with win #48 as he is looking to be truly unstoppable right now.
In the ladies’ competitions, the Americans had an impressive showing. In Wednesday’s competition, Perrine Laffont (FRA) took the victory just edging Americans Jaelin Kauf and Morgan Schild in second and third place. The next day, the Americans upped their game as Kauf moved into the top spot with Laffont taking second place and Schild maintaining her third-place position.
Deer Valley also played host to an aerials competition which saw China and Russia dominate, taking five of the six podium places up for grabs. Xu Mengtao (CHN) and Maxim Burov (RUS) were the winners in the action-packed competitions. Xu conquered the ladies’ with a comfortable 114.21 points ahead of second-place Kristina Spiridonova’s (RUS) 88.47 points. The men’s competition was not as easily determined as Burov earned his win by a slim 1.1 point ahead of Guangpu Qi.
The Freeski and Snowboard Park and Pipe athletes were also in America as Snowmass played host to a full line-up of slopestyle and half pipe competitions.
The first podium places decided came with the Freeski half pipe competition at the resort’s 22-foot tall superpipe, with Cassie Sharpe (CAN) claiming top spot in the ladies’ competition while reigning Olympic champion David Wise (USA) led a U.S. podium sweep in the men’s event. The next day, the snowboarders were in action on the pipe with Queralt Castellet (ESP) and Shaun White (USA) earning the victories in the last international qualifying event for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
In slopestyle action, the riders were up first on Friday and faced tricky weather conditions that were constantly changing and challenging the athletes. In the end, Christy Prior (NZL) and Redmond Gerard (USA) took the honours, although both faced stiff competition in addition to the difficult weather conditions.
The freeskiers enjoyed entirely different conditions the following day as blue bird skies greeted the field. Johanne Killi (NOR) and Andri Ragettli (SUI) claimed top spots in the best-of-two competition that saw some of the biggest tricks of the season with an Olympic ticket on the line for many athletes.
In Bad Gastein (AUT), the parallel snowboarders were in action for individual and team slalom competitions. The individual events saw two first-time World Cup winners with Ramona Hofmeister (GER) and Dmitry Loginov (RUS) taking their first career wins. Russia was particularly strong in the men’s competition earning three of the first four spots. In the mixed team competition, the Austrians sparked to life taking first and third places, respectively with Germany landing in second place.
Finally, in northern Sweden, the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour was in action for a double race weekend. On Saturday, home favourite Sandra Naeslund (SWE) continued her winning ways winning both of the weekend’s events on home snow and extending her lead in the overall World Cup standings. Naeslund topped Marielle Berger Sabbatel (FRA), Fanny Smith (SUI), and upstart 21-year-old India Sherret (CAN) in Saturday’s big final, while her win on Sunday was thanks to having the best qualification time after the ladies’ race had to be cancelled.
In the men’s competitions, veteran Alex Fiva (SUI) had one of his most successful weekends to date, earning victory ahead of teammate Marc Bischofburger on Saturday and narrowly missing out on Sunday finishing just behind defending Olympic champion Jean Frederic Chappuis.
The FIS Telemark World Cup continued in the resort of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, in the Savoie region of France.
Pralognan provided athletes and spectators alike with excellent snow conditions and some spectacular racing in both the sprint and the classic - the first classic race of the 2017/18 World Cup season.
In the ladies’ races, Johanna Holzmann (GER) and Argeline Tan-Bouquet (FRA) dominated the field with Holzmann taking the top spot in the sprint on Friday and Tan-Bouquet taking her first World Cup victory in what proved to be a very long and demanding classic the following day. Jasmin Taylor (GBR) finished closely behind, skiing consistently, into third position in both races.
The men’s races were equally as tightly contested with Nicolas Michel (SUI) taking the glory in the sprint on the first day. Jure Ales (SLO) took his second World Cup podium in the sprint, only this time going one better and taking the silver; and Trym Nygaard Loeken (NOR) clinched the third position.
In Saturday’s classic spectators were treated to an exciting display of big jumps, broken skating poles and some superb skiing from all the competitors. Starting bib number 15, the Swissman, Stefan Matter denied Jure Ales of his first World Cup victory, taking the win with just over a second margin ahead of the Slovenian. Nicolas Michel finished in a creditable third, leaving fellow Swiss racer, Bastien Dayer in fourth.
“Last weekend saw a very successful GBR leg of the Telemark World Cup Tour. With cold and clear weather the snow was perfect for running a challenging sprint and what has been seen as one of the toughest classics of recent years. The races were wonderfully supported by the Piste Security, Lift Company, ESF and Office du Tourism of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, as well as TeleHo for the TV production; and British Telemark are very grateful for all their efforts in running such an outstanding event” commented Adrian Pery, Chief of Race in Pralognan.
The FIS Telemark World Cup now heads to the USA where racing will pick up on the East Coast in Suicide Six and Sugarbush between the 20th-26th January.