Maiden World Cup wins for Gong and Bagozza in Secret Garden PGS
Gong Naiying on her way to her first World Cup win © ZHANG Linyuan

Secret Garden (CHN) - Day two of FIS Snowboard alpine World Cup action at the future Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games venue in Secret Garden (CHN) went down in perfect fashion on Sunday, where clear skies and ideal course conditions once again welcoming the world’s best carvers and both China’s own Gong Naiying and Daniele Bagozza of Italy claimed their maiden World Cup victories in parallel slalom competition.

Racing in her third World Cup season, Gong has shown promise in the past, especially with her sixth-place finish at Rogla (SLO) earlier this season. However, racing on home soil on Sunday, the 20-year-old found another gear altogether, putting on an inspired performance to vanquish some of the world’s best and claim the first win of her career.

After qualifying in second earlier in the day, Gong was able to best Alexandra Krol (POL), World Cup parallel second-overall Sabine Schoeffmann (AUT), and Utah 2019 PGS world champion Selina Joerg (GER) on her way to a big final showdown with PSL World Cup leader and Utah 2019 PSL world champion Julie Zogg (SUI).

Despite falling behind Zogg after the first few gates of the big final, Gong never gave up, battling through every turn and gradually reeling Zogg back in by the middle of the course. Then, perhaps feeling the heat from Gong, Zogg made a critical error on a heelside turn, nearly going down. 

Though Zogg was able to stay on her feet and continue chasing Gong, there was simply not enough course left to make up the lost time, and Gong was able to charge across the line for the victory to the delight of the Chinese fans gathered in Secret Garden.

“I want to thank my country China, my team, and my coaches for all the support,” said Gong through a translator after the awards ceremony, “It has been a lot of work every day to achieve this goal and I’m happy.”

Winner of the small final for third place on the day was the above-mentioned Joerg, who was able to best Patrizia Kummer (SUI) to nab the final spot on the podium.

Zogg’s second place result helped extend her lead on the PSL World Cup standings, giving her 2,020 points so far this year. Schoeffmann currently sits in second with 1,800. Finishing in fifth place, Ester Ledecka (CZE) was able to maintain her lead on the parallel overall standings.

In the men’s final the 23-year-old Bagozza looked like a seasoned veteran in his trip to the big final, beating PGS World Cup leader Andreas Prommegger (AUT), PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Sangho Lee, and his teammate and parallel World Cup overall leader Roland Fischnaller on his way to meeting Utah 2019 double world champion Dmitry Loginov of Russia in the big final. 

Bagozza and Loginov were perfectly synced through the first six or seven gates of the course, before Loginov cut a heelside turn too aggressively and ended up swerving out of his line. However, with more than three quarters of the course still to run, Loginov got right back to work, reeling Bagozza in with some inspired riding and looking for all the world like he would pull off the greatest comeback performance of the season.

Unfortunately for Loginov, and fortunately for Bagozza, the Russia once again made a small mistake with just three gates left to go, losing speed and handing the win and the career milestone to Bagozza.

“This day I will for sure remember,” Bagozza smiled from the finish area, “It’s my first World Cup win, in my first full World Cup season. It came so quick I really can’t believe it, and I’m so happy. I really liked the slope here. The snow was perfect, and I hope we have these conditions at the Olympic Games in three years.”

Surprisingly, the second-place result was the first World Cup podium of the season for Loginov, who won gold in both the PGS and PSL competitions at the Utah 2019 world championships. 

Third place in Sunday’s men’s event went to Fischnaller, who denied the Chinese team a two-podium day when he pipped Zhang Xuan at the finish line by just .07 seconds. Though the result was just Fischnaller’s second podium of the season, it pushed him into top spot on the parallel overall rankings with 3,610 points.

In the men’s PSL World Cup rankings, meanwhile, it’s Russia’s Andrey Sobolev sitting on top with 1,810 points.

Next week will be a break for the FIS Snowboard alpine World Cup, before we get back to action with parallel giant slalom action in Scoul (SUI) on March 9.