“Ladies first” is the motto, as always, at the Alpine Ski World Cup opener in Sölden. The women’s giant slalom on Saturday is the first World Cup race under Corona conditions, i.e. without fans on the slopes. In terms of sport, the young New Zealander Alice Robinson will be the defending champion at the start of a race in which two RTL Olympic champions are missing, Mikaela Shiffrin and the resigned Viktoria Rebensburg. The ÖSV women hope for further improvement.
Because the giant slalom is nominally still the weakest discipline of women by Christian Mitter, who in his second year as racing director can show a remarkable density with eight runners in the top 30 and two in the top 15. Good starting numbers are essential for the women’s boss, but there is still a bit of a lack in his team.
“We are not quite there yet. But I expect that we will continue to work our way forward”, Mitter demands of his drivers full commitment and also that those who make it into the second run risk again there.
Mitter, on the other hand, defends himself against the assumption that only the usual suspects like Federica Brignone (chasing the Italian record of 16 victories by Deborah Compagnonis), Tessa Worley, Petra Vlhova, Marta Bassino or the recovered Swiss Wendy Holdener are to be expected in Sölden . “That wasn’t the case last year either,” he referred to sensational winner Robinson, who carved to her maiden victory on the Rettenbachferner at the age of 17. “I hope so, there will be another vortex in the front.”
The podium is a high bar for his women who have not won 32 races in RTL. “But we want to use our chance in the second round and there,” said Mitter. It is clear, of course, “that with starting number 30, even a world class performance will not be enough to win.” But Katharina Liensberger proved last year as third in Lienz that at least podium places are possible. Of course, after Stephanie Brunner’s third place in Killington in 2018, it was only the second podium since the last RTL victory of an Austrian, for which Eva-Maria Brem has been responsible since March 2016 (Jasna).
Last year Liensberger was still missing in Sölden because of her unsuccessful brand change. With Bernadette Schild, the best half-time injured, but local hero Franziska Gritsch (7th) and Ramona Siebenhofer (10th) surprised. Bernadette Schild and Stephanie Brunner will give comebacks on Saturday (10 a.m. / 1 p.m., live ORF 1). “The knee and my skiing are fine. If I can go down twice on Saturday, a big step has been taken for me,” said the Salzburg resident. Brunner is not worried after three injuries in a very short time before her first World Cup race in 21 months. “I’m ready,” assured the Tyrolean.
The other ÖSV women are also confidently heading into the big home race, which will be a real tough test on the demanding glacier slope at 3,000 m above sea level. “Knowing that you’ve delivered well gives you an extra boost in self-confidence. Even when the clocks are at zero,” Siebenhofer is convinced.
And Gritsch is happy despite the lack of home fans: “When I think of last year, I have really nice feelings. Perhaps the advantage this time is that there is a little more peace on the slope,” hopes the Ötztal woman. Last year it shone with start number 37, this time Gritsch is already driving a 20.
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