Marco Odermatt made his mark on this edition of the FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships taking a record fifth gold medal. Today’s result was in giant slalom where he won his first Championship gold in the Sochi World Juniors.
For the record: winning five gold in one edition of the Championship is a new standard. His total of six Junior Golds ties him with Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) of Norway for most in a career.
“This is incredible to me”, said Odermatt as quoted in FIS media. “We have celebrated every medal so far and they just kept coming. I am extremely happy with my results here at Junior Worlds. It is still a big step to World Cup level, so there is lots of work ahead of me.”
It was a near perfect day on the Jakobshorn. One hundred and twenty-nine junior men from 36 nations were tested on a water-injected track, a surface few had ever raced on. “This will be an eye-opener for many of our athletes competing today” said Peter Gerdol, FIS Europa Cup Race Director. Indeed, the track was rock-hard, varied and up-tempo.
Austrian Fabio Gstrein narrowly edged out Odermatt in the first run by .06. A number of the favourites had miscues with the World Cup surface.
In the reverse-30 for the second run, Odermatt’s skills shone through. Skiing from 29th position, the Swiss junior star skied smoothly through the chop to post the fasted time, 0.58 ahead of Alberto Blengini (ITA) who was 2nd fastest on the run, and nearly a second ahead of silver medalist Gstrein and bronze medalist Albert Popov (BUL).
In the first run, Sam Mulligan (Grouse Mt. Tyee) straddled a very tough gate that had troubled a number of the first seed skiers. Riley Seger (Whistler) had similar problems at the same gate.
Jeffrey Read (Banff Alpine) had a choppy upper section (63rd), but recovered on the second half of the GS to snare 30th spot. Liam Wallace (Sunshine/Alberta Ski Team) moved up from 67th to 44th spot, Declan McCormack (Osler Bluff/Ontario Ski Team) came in 45th and Simon Fournier (Tremblant) had difficulties on the pitch and came in 70th.
In run two, Read posted the 14th best time to finish 18th. Fournier posted the 38th best time to end up in 43rd place. Wallace nearly completed the steep pitch mid-way in the track but got off-line and went out. McCormack was thrown wide in the rough conditions and hip-slid off the course.
Of the 129th athletes at the start, only 60 finished both runs. A clear indicator of tough race conditions that these juniors will need to adapt to as they look towards competing at the World Cup level where such water-injected surfaces are the norm.
The ladies began training for Thursday’s downhill, with a wise decision by the Race Organizers to offer two training runs – one on the full track, a second which covered about 2/3 of the track. Stefanie Fleckenstein (Whistler Mt.) is the only Canadian entered and was 12th in the first training run and 13th in the second.
Canada is now ranked 7th in the Marc Hodler Trophy standings, with the Swiss holding a 9-point lead over Austria with two races remaining in the Championship.
Photo Credit: Steve Fleckenstein