The 21st edition of the FIS Snowboard World Cup Bad Gastein (AUT) wrapped up in storybook fashion for the host Austrians on Wednesday afternoon, as veteran carvers Claudia Riegler and Andreas Prommegger powered through some tough matchups to emerge victorious from the first parallel slalom mixed team event of the 2020/21 season.
The fact that the pair was even on course together at all was something of a miracle, as just the day before Riegler had crashed hard in the individual PSL event and was stretchered off of the competition slope by the medical team. However, after a brief visit to the hospital on Tuesday evening she was given the all-clear for Wednesday’s competition, and the 47-year-old put together a determined performance along with her partner Prommegger to take Austria’s fifth win in six team competitions at Bad Gastein.
Riegler and Prommegger presented a formidable pair for any of the other teams on hand, with Riegler the 2018/19 winner of the individual competition in Bad Gastein, and Prommegger the third-place finisher just a few hours earlier in Tuesday’s nighttime competition.
As expected, the Austrians came out hot, dispatching Canada’s Megan Farrell and Jasey Jay Anderson with relative ease in the 1/8 finals, before moving on to a showdown with a pair of Olympic gold medallists in Patrizia Kummer and Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland in the quarters. However, despite the heavy pedigree of the Swiss team, Riegler and Prommegger would again prevail in impressive fashion once again and move on the semifinals.
In the semis it would be an all-Austria showdown, with Riegler and Prommegger up against their national teammates Daniela Ulbing and Benjamin Karl, winners of the 2018/19 and 2016/17 editions of the Bad Gastein PRT competition.
While that matchup with their compatriots would be the tightest of the afternoon for Riegler and Prommegger, with Prommegger and Karl neck-and-neck through the first half of the heat, it would be Riegler in the second leg of the relay who would pull away from Ulbing and ensure a spot in the big final for the pair.
In the big final they would face down the speedy German duo of Cheyenne Loch and Stefan Baumeister, with Loch fresh off a second-place finish from the previous evening in the individual event. On top of Loch’s obvious confidence on the Bad Gastein course, her partner Baumeister was one half of 2019/20 team who won the Bad Gastein event, where he - along with Ramona Theresia Hofmeister - halted a streak of four-straight wins for the Austrian squad with that victory.
On Wednesday, however, the Austrians would be back to their winning ways at Bad Gastein, and once again the hard-charging Reigler was the difference maker in the big final, as she came out of the gate quick and forced Loch to play catch-up from the outset. Falling behind, Loch pushed it a little too hard while trying to make up ground, losing control midway through the course and slowing her momentum - and in the process effectively putting herself and Baumeister out of contention and handing Reigler and Prommegger the win.
“I thought yesterday when I was lying up there (after the crash), ‘My competition in Bad Gastein is over’,” said Riegler just before the awards ceremony, “But I think mostly I was just shocked, not seriously hurt. I was a bit dizzy for a moment but they checked everything in the hospital and saw no problems with my head or my spine so I was allowed to race today.
“Then this morning I was kind of thinking that I didn’t know if I could do it today, but I focused on making sure my mind was good and I think that was what really made me strong today. It was a tough race, but I had fun.”
“It was really difficult out there today,” echoed her partner Prommegger, “But it was difficult for me yesterday, too, because I was trying to celebrate (my third place finish) but knowing Claudia was lying in the hospital. So it was quite the gift when she called me this morning to say, ‘It’s ok, Andy, I can ride today.’ So, that was perfect. It was tough riding out there today but I’m happy that we’re finished now and on top of the podium.
With Bad Gastein in the books, the women and men of the FIS Snowboard Alpine World Cup will now step back for a quick break before we head to Russia for a pair events, first in Moscow for PSL competition on the 30th of January, and then on to Bannoye for PGS and PSL events from 06-07 February.