Hahnenkamm, the rollercoaster of emotions

Back in autumn, there was already no doubt in anyone’s mind that the 81st Hahnenkamm Races were going to be one of a kind. For the first time since their premiere in 1931, no spectators were permitted to attend, nor audiences allowed to line the route or wait at the finish line.

A unique situation, that will hopefully remain an absolute one-off. The prologue to the races was also unique, as after cancellation of the races in Wengen (due to the pandemic), Kitzbühel stepped in at short notice to host two Slaloms on the 16th and 17th January, as well as two Downhill races and a Super-G from 22nd to 24th January. But the dream of a Slalom and Speed weekend was shattered as quickly as it had arisen. Once again, the virus was to blame, which has been wreaking havoc as the world's biggest killjoy for almost a year now. Nevertheless, we all remain humble and grateful that our treasured ski sport event was still allowed to take place, as Austria was already in the throes of its third hard lockdown during the 81st Hahnenkamm Races, with hotels and guesthouses having been closed for weeks.

After rescheduling the Slalom races from Wengen to Kitzbühel and then to Flachau, our Hahnenkamm Week finally began as planned on January 18th and - apart from a brief flurry of wintry conditions - went without hitch. The first training runs on Wednesday and Thursday promised races with a true focus on the sport, while the athletes attested to the unequivocal harmlessness of the Streif.

The first race day then began somewhat surreally for many locals, as the streets of Kitzbühel were empty - on Downhill Day! Even the finish area, whose design with a retro-look flag parade was reminiscent of the period between the 1950s and 1990s, was quiet as never before. Music streamed pleasantly from the speakers, without the usual booming roar. The stadium announcer spoke in dulcet tones, with no need to fire up absent fans, while coaches and journalists could chat in peace.

The races went smoothly until Ryan Cochran-Siegle crashed in the traverse, and Urs Kryenbühl after the Zielsprung section. Both had to be rescued by helicopter and the dispirited mood turned to one of apprehension. The Jury called off the Downhill after racer number 30 and the “Zielsprung” section was mechanically modified. Beat Feuz's first victory on the Streif was highly deserved, but not many people were in the mood for celebrating.

Saturday began with light precipitation and warmer conditions. The jury made the call to cancel the next Hahnenkamm Downhill first thing in the morning and at noon it was decided: Downhill on Sunday, Super-G on Monday. The rollercoaster of emotions continued, unabated.

On Sunday, polar air masses transformed the Streif back into the Streif we know and love, the “Zielsprung” jump functioned smoothly and Beat Feuz was crowned double winner. All was well with our world again.

The weather forecast for Monday promised yet more wintry conditions, yet didn’t follow through. The Super-G took place in good and stable weather and a decades-old tradition remained unbroken: the sixth Monday race in the history of the Hahnenkamm Races was also won by an Austrian, Vincent Kriechmayr.

The 81st Hahnenkamm Races were unique in many ways - and will hopefully - remain an absolute one-off. From today's perspective, what remains and what comes next cannot be reliably predicted. But one thing is certain: visitors to the 82nd Races from 17th to 23rd January 2022 will be received - as always - with the words: Welcome to the rollercoaster of emotions at Hahnenkamm.