Premiere in Val Gardena/Gröden brings ski fairy tale
The Val Gardena/Gröden Organizing Committee was thrilled to step-up and enthusiastically took on this additional challenge after the organizational feasibility of the project was ensured: adjustments to the course, additional accommodations for ladies’ athletes and support crews and, last but not least, the availability of the members of the local OC to squeeze in a few more days of World Cup before the upcoming holidays. Once everything was sorted, FIS gave the ok and the team went to to work.
The most challenging part was to adjust the racing course adapting it from the men’s races. First off, the Start was lowered to just above Sochers, the decision was made to bypass the Camel Humps and also the Ciaslat was mitigated by shaving off some risk. FIS race director Atle Skaardal who himself won the downhill in Val Gardena/Gröden in 1990 along with the racers were all thrilled at this outcome.
From a racing perspective, the stars were clearly aligned for Ilka Stuhec (SLO) who won both the ladies’ downhill and super-G. In the downhill, Stuhec won with Ramona Siebenhofer coming in third; second place went to local heroine Nicol Delago who clearly was the star of the event as she grew up directly on the Saslong, had the home course advantage and could hardly believe her success.
Ilka Stuhec repeated her victory by taking gold in super-G. Second place went to Tina Weirather (LIE) and Nicol Schmidhofer (A) equally placed. Swiss Jasmin Flury came in fourth. All four racers placed within 5/100 second.
The days before the ladies’ races, however, were all about the men’s classic events…
The 51st edition of the men's speed races on the Saslong concluded with a Norwegian double win. Organizers, FIS and athletes can look back on very well organized men’s races in Val Gardena/Gröden. In 2018, the valley was once again ready and showed itself from its best side for the Ski World Cup: excellent weather, a packed entertainment program with numerous great guests and exciting races made the World Cup week on the Saslong an unforgettable extravaganza once again.
The actual races started with the men's Super-G on Friday. This discipline celebrated its premiere on the Saslong in 2002 and was held for the 17th time this year, ending with an eighth victory for a Norwegian. "Saslong King" Aksel Lund Svindal impressed with a flawless race and left local hero Christof Innerhofer behind by just a few hundredths of a second. Svindal's team-mate Kjetil Jansrud completed the podium in third place.
The absolute highlight of the men’s race week, the classic downhill on Saturday, also took place in full sunshine. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde found the best line and prevailed by a large margin ahead of the Austrian Max Franz and the Swiss Beat Feuz. Unfortunately, the race was overshadowed by a heavy crash of Swiss skier Marc Gisin. The 30-year-old crashed at the Camel Humps and had to be taken away by medevac. It was later reported that he is in stable conditions with several rib fractures, a slightly depressed hip-socket and a few minor fractures in the spine. Further examinations show no serious injurious to his brain.
One highlight to point out for the men’s races is that this year for the first time in addition to the downhill public bib-draw, also the super-G bib draw was held at a public event which was well attended. The same set-up was also repeated for both women’s races.