Clement Noel is the new Sljeme king
Zagreb, 5 January 2020 – The fantastic Frenchman Clement Noel won the Audi FIS Ski World Cup “Snow Queen Trophy” 2020 slalom, thus claiming the title of the new Sljeme king. In today’s race, he completed two great runs and became the second Frenchman to win the Zagreb event, after the legendary Jean-Baptiste Grange, who bagged the title in 2009. The young Noel celebrated on Sljeme after clocking the fastest time (1:57:14) and edging the second-placed Swiss Ramon Zenhausern (1:57:21) by mere seven hundredths of a second, while Italy’s Alex Vinatzer came in third (1:57:43).
The Sljeme win was 22-year-old Noel’s first slalom win this season and fourth overall in his career. At the press conference afterwards, the young Frenchman did not hide his excitement of winning on Sljeme: “I made a mistake in the first run, but it is very difficult to be fast throughout the whole length of the course. Even so, I was more aggressive in the second run and managed to catch up because I had known anything was possible and I could still be the fastest competitor. The course was set to allow for great speeds, which suited me well and was attractive to all the ski fans out there. I have already won a number of races, but it is fantastic to be the second Frenchman to win the Snow Queen Trophy, and I am very proud of that.”
He also praised the conditions on the course and the spectators’ support: “There were a lot of supporters on Sljeme today. They created a wonderful atmosphere, and that motivated me further to be even faster. Zagreb is a unique stop in the World Cup, the crown given to the best skier is also unique, and I am only too happy to have won it.”
He then commented on the previous races and announced an unpredictable slalom season: “Everything has become more interesting and intense since Hirscher’s domination ended, and I am certain the fans are happy about it. It is good to have some new faces on the podium. Since the start of this season, we have already had three different slalom winners. I believe that the outcome of the fight for the small crystal globe will be uncertain until the very end of the season.”
After the first run, the second-placed 27-year-old Ramon Zenhausern was in the lead; however, he lost that advantage with a poor second run. “Interestingly enough, Switzerland is a large skiing nation but has never had too many great results in slalom, which is why I am proud of the fact that I am the first Swiss skier to stand on the podium here in Zagreb. In the second run, I lost my advantage as nervousness overcame me shortly before
crossing the finish line and that cost me my win,” said Ramon. This was also the first time he ended as one of the top three skiers at the “Snow Queen Trophy” event.
The 20-year-old Italian Alex Vinatzer came in third in the “Snow Queen Trophy” slalom, thus securing his career-first World Cup podium place. “I feel fantastic after producing my career-best result and I am more than happy to have done it now. The fantastic Sljeme spectators, who cheer on every single skier can be an example to the supporters at all the other World Cup races. I will continue to work hard and one day, hopefully, win the Sljeme crown,” said Vinatzer. Before getting on the podium in Zagreb, his best slalom result was coming in 12th in Levi, Finland.
The race also featured six Croatian representatives; however, only Istok Rodeš qualified for the second run. In the end, Istok was 25th, trailing one second and 64 hundredths of a second behind the winner of today’s race, thus confirming his good form in this season’s slaloms. “I made a tiny mistake every few turns and couldn’t find a good rhythm. It was one of those days, I guess. Judging by my training sessions, I know that what I showed here today is not my maximum. I know I can do much better, but I need to show it too,” he added.
As for the other Croatian skiers, Leon Nikić and Filip Zubčić successfully completed their first runs, coming in 39th and 40th respectively, despite having high start numbers; however, their times did not secure them places in the second run. Leon’s 39th place today was his career-best in the World Cup and a glimpse of his promising future in the sport. Elias Kolega, Matej Vidović and Samuel Kolega, unfortunately, failed to complete their first runs in the Sljeme slalom.