Henrik Kristoffersen

Course worker accidentally halts World Cup skier’s slalom run

Leave a comment

Argentine skier Cristian Javier Simari Birkner was the 75th and final skier on the start list for Wednesday’s World Cup slalom in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.

A course worker must have thought the race had only 74.

The worker was near a flag on the course but scrambled away after realizing Simari Birkner was approaching. The damage was already done, as a distracted Simari Birkner pulled up and, with a look of desolation, abandoned his run.

The race winner was Switzerland’s Daniel Yule, who has won only twice on the World Cup circuit, both times on this slope and in back-to-back years. Yule has been on the podium one other time this season, taking third in November in Levi, Finland.

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen finished second to take the lead in the World Cup slalom standings and move up to third overall. France’s Clement Noel placed third and stands just behind Kristoffersen in the slalom standings.

Alexis Pinturault moved into the overall World Cup lead, finishing fifth.

Simari Birkner, 39, has been a fixture in international skiing for years, competing in World Cup races since 1998. Wednesday’s race, though, was his first World Cup event of the season. His career-best World Cup finish is 26th in a super combined event in 2012 in Sochi. His only other top-30 World Cup finish was 29th in the same event in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He has never reached the final run of a World Cup in slalom or giant slalom.

But he has fared better in Olympic and world championship competition, with a career best of 17th in each. He was 17th in the 2002 Olympic slalom and has six top-30 Olympic finishes, two each in the slalom, giant slalom and combined. He has twice finished 17th in world championships — the 2003 giant slalom and the 2007 slalom — and has 11 top-30s.

Simari Birkner has three younger sisters — Maria Belen, Macarena and Angelica — who also compete, with similar results.

A course worker also was in the way earlier this season in Alta Badia, Italy, where Croatia’s Filip Zubcic had to swerve to avoid someone at the finish line as he finished 10th in a giant slalom.

TV: Alpine skiing broadcast schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Henrik Kristoffersen gets first slalom win in nearly 2 years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LEVI, Finland (AP) — Henrik Kristoffersen has finally triumphed again in a men’s World Cup slalom after 22 months, winning the first race since the retirement of his longtime nemesis Marcel Hirscher.

Competing in foggy conditions and snowfall, Kristoffersen edged first-run leader Clement Noel on Sunday to win the first slalom of the season.

It was the Norwegian’s 16th career victory in the discipline, but the first since winning in Kitzbuehel in January 2018.

“After the first run I thought: ‘Seven-tenths on Noel, that’s a bit too much,’” said Kristoffersen, who trailed the Frenchman by 0.68 seconds after the opening leg but beat his French rival by 0.09 thanks to a near-flawless second run.

“My skiing in slalom is much better than last year, we have worked a lot,” he said. “It was not a perfect run but it’s going in the right direction.”

Kristoffersen and Hirscher dominated the slalom circuit for years, with the Austrian mostly coming out on top.

No other skier than Hirscher (six times) or Kristoffersen (once) has won the season title in the discipline in the past seven seasons.

“In 2015, 16, 17, we were very fast, Marcel and me. Then we were a bit over the limit, I think,” Kristoffersen said. “I had to take back a bit: a bit less speed and a bit more focus on technique. Taking one step back to go three steps forward.”

With Hirscher, the record eight-time overall champion from Austria, now retired, the competition for a new slalom champion is wide open.

Noel confirmed his status as one the leading racers in the discipline by posting the fastest time in the opening run, building a lead of 0.39 seconds over Britain’s Dave Ryding.

In the second run, however, Noel had a costly mistake going into the steep part of the Levi Black course while Ryding, chasing his first win, slid off the course midway down the hill and failed to finish.

“It was a good race. It was really difficult in the second run,” Noel said. “It’s a good way to start the season. I am playing with the big boys and I am happy about that.”

Noel had his breakthrough in the final two months of last season. Without a World Cup podium finish to his name, Noel finished runner-up in Adelboden in January before winning races in Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Soldeu.

It earned him second place, shared with Switzerland’s Daniel Yule, behind Hirscher in the slalom season standings.

On Sunday, Yule improved from seventh after the opening run to third, 0.18 behind Kristoffersen.

Noel’s French teammate Alexis Pinturault finished 2.48 off the lead in the opening run and failed to qualify for the second.

Pinturault won the season-opening giant slalom last month and is widely regarded a main candidate for the overall title.

The men’s World Cup continues next week in Lake Louise, Alberta, with a downhill on Saturday and a super-G the following day, the first speed events of the season.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.