The World Cup ski season is long and arduous to endure. So, when the best of the best return home at the end of the winter and have to attend their national championships out of obligation, they are often tired, worn and ripe for upset. Nationals are the prime time for young up-and-coming athletes to get a clean shot at taking down their idols. Some succeed, some don’t.
There were many examples this spring of athletes taking advantage of that very situation. Nowhere was this better displayed than at the Norwegian national championships.
Consider the Norwegian national men’s slalom. With six World Cup slalom victories last season, Henrik Kristoffersen set records and claimed the slalom globe. Yet he did not win the Norwegian crown in the disco sticks.
Kristoffersen was firstly beaten by his teammate Sebastian Foss-Solvaag, who did earn a World Cup podium in finals at St. Moritz. But Foss-Solvaag didn’t win the national title either – both of them were beaten in a major upset by 19-year-old Bjoern Brudevoll from the Hemsedal Ski Club, a 21-point slalom skier who scored a career-best eight-point finish on the day.
“The beatdowns didn’t
Kristoffersen wins World Cup slaloms at Val d’Isere, Madonna, Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Schladming, but finishes third at nationals? What does this say about Brudevoll’s future?
The beatdowns didn’t end there. Demonstrating multi-discipline talent, eight Norwegian skiers collected four or more top-10 finishes at nationals, including Ragnhild Mowinckel, 24, with three wins and a second-place result. Tough to argue with that.
Europa Cup champion Maren Skjoeld, 23, had three second places and two fourths, plenty good; Thea Louise Stjernesund, 19, had two thirds, a fourth and two fifths; Kaja Norbye, only 17, was fourth three times; Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, now 18 (following her birthday earlier this week), was third twice and seventh twice, though one of those results did come in the Swedish championships.
A few more Norwegian names to watch out for in the future include Axel William Patricksson (just nominated to the World Cup group for next season), European Cup athlete Marcus Monsen as well as 18-year-old Kristiane Bekkestad from Ål.
Canadian Nationals also showcased a fine collection of dominance. Marie-Michele Gagnon registered three wins. Nobody snuck up on her.
But how about Candace Crawford with one win and three second places? Stephanie Currie (19) scored four top-10 finishes as did Phil Brown and Trevor Philp. Brodie Seger, 20, also clocked in four times.
In the Swiss national champs Aline Danioth, reigning World Junior slalom champion, bested World Cup regular Wendy Holdener by 0.30 seconds for the national GS title. Holdener, however, stopped Danioth in the slalom by a significant 0.86 seconds. Michelle Gisin, in third, was more than a second out.
Among the Swiss men it was Justin Murisier and Sandro Jenal neck-and-neck for the GS crown, Murisier getting the edge by a slim 0.03 seconds. Both are 24 years old. Daniel Yule claimed the slalom win by more than a half second over Ramon Zenhaeusern, as German Stefan Luitz was third.
One thing we learned for sure: German championships were the most popular for poaching.
Slovene Marusa Ferk narrowly missed the German downhill title, but garnering more attention was winner Kira Weidle, a 20 year old who also placed third in combined. Third in the downhill was another 20 year old, Meike Pfister.
Klaus Brandner, 26, claimed the men’s downhill with the older Andreas Sander in second by a hen’s tooth (0.01 seconds).
Ana Bucik, a Slovene, won the women’s combined by nearly a full second over Patrizia Dorsch. Weidle was third as previously mentioned and fourth went to Katrin Hirtl-Stanggassinger, an 18 year old with quite a season behind her. She earned a bronze in combined and silver in GS at the Youth Olympic Games. At World Juniors she collected silver in combined. She would go on to take the German national GS title over Pfister and Susanne Weibuchner, who tied for second.
There were no big surprises in the German women’s super-G, except for the complete lack of Germans. Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer won over Italian Verena Stuffer. Mirjam Puchner, Ricarda Haaser, Rosina Schneeberger, Priska Nufer, Marusa Ferk, Joana Haelen, Sabrina Maier and Edit Miklos ran places one through 10, and not a German among them. Klaus Brandner got the men’s SG win by a tenth over Otmar Striedinger.
Veteran status was of benefit at the Italian championships. The top group in women’s downhill included Elena Fancini, 31, Sofia Goggia, 23, Johanna Schnarf, 32, and Nadia Fanchini, 30. In men’s downhill it was Christof Innerhofer, 31, Mattia Casse, 26, and World Cup title winner Peter Fill, 33.
In men’s GS, Riccardo Tonetti, 27, Luca DeAliprandini, 26, Florian Eisath, 31, Hannes Zingerle, 21, and Manfred Moelgg, 34. Even with Zingerle bringing the tally down, the average age of the top five was still 27.8 years of age.
Slalom averaged an even older 30.2, won by the indefatigable Patrick Thaler, 38, with Cristian Deville, 35, in second. Third was Tommaso Sala, 21, in fourth Manfred Moelgg, 34, and fifth Fabian Bacher, 23.
Over in France, Romane Miradoli is among the youngest on the national team. She was third in downhill, first in super-G and eighth in GS. Anne-Sophie Barthet, meanwhile, claimed the downhill win.
In men’s slalom it was World Cup star Alexis Pinturault by 0.08 seconds over Jean-Baptiste Grange, as could be expected. Women’s slalom went to Adeline Baud Mugnier over Andorra’s Mireia Gutierrez. In third was 21-year-old Clara Direz, and fourth held little relevance at 2.54 seconds out.
In Austria, where one must go to get a full grasp of the sport, Philipp Schoerghofer won the GS over Marco Schwarz, as World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher skipped the series.
Schwarz rebounded with the slalom win by a tenth over Michael Matt. Third was 0.80 seconds out and fourth was 1.09 back.
In the early 2000s, the Austrian men’s slalom was regularly won by 30 year olds. That 21-year-old Schwarz got the win this year is significant. Wolfgang Hoerl, who announced his retirement not long after, in fifth was the only 30-something in the top 10 and from that point the margin was already three seconds behind the champion. The Austrians will be throwing some youth into the slalom fray in the near future.
Women’s downhill also saw some bright flashes among the young. Tying Tamara Tippler’s victory time was Christina Ager, 21, third was Blanca Venier, 20, and fourth Elisabeth Reisinger, 20.
The men’s downhill winner was Sebastian Arzt, 25, followed by Slaven Dujakovic, 21, and Stefan Babinsky, 20. Seventh-finishing Lukas Trinkl is but 19 and ninth-finishing Manuel Traninger is a year younger than that. As always, the Austrians are poised to take advantage of any given situation.
So there you have it, a couple dozen things learned by taking a look at results from national championships around the globe.
Safe speed everyone.