Race Report: Sara Hector Reigns Victorious in Exciting Kranjska Gora World Cup Giant Slalom

Phil Tremblay | | OlympicsOlympics
Sara Hector from Sweden took her 3rd career World Cup win in the Giant Slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Photo: Jure Makovec / AFP

The small Slovenian town of Kranjska Gora has become a mainstay on the women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom World Cup tour. The small town, near the Italian and Austrian borders, served as the first Giant Slalom World Cup of the new year on January 8th. After struggling through tough snow and weather conditions in the previous slalom World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia, Kranjska Gora provided a fantastic venue for the strongest skiers in the world to kick off a year that includes the cornerstone of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

Italian tech-star Marta Bassino was the first to tackle the 45-gate pitch. Bassino had won twice before in Kranjska Gora and, despite a small mistake in the early phase of the course, set a strong first-run pace of 1:07.46. Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin had been on the podium in all three of her World Cup Giant Slalom appearances this season and was third out of the gate on the first run. Shiffrin has a Kranjska Gora victory to her name but appeared slightly off the pace in the first run. Main title rival Petra Vlhova of Slovakia also struggled, coming down 0.03s behind Shiffrin. Sweden’s Sara Hector, who’d won the Giant Slalom in Courcheval, France, quickly showed her competitiveness through the first run. With a seemingly strong run, Hector finished the first run 0.08s ahead of then-leader Tessa Worley of France with a time of 1:07.23. Hector’s time would stand, and the 29-year-old Swede held the lead into run 2. Shiffrin stood 14th into the 2nd run, 1.47s behind Hector.

Colorado’s Mikaela Shiffrin found herself off the podium in Kranjska Gora, Finishing 7th. Despite the result, Shiffrin grew her lead in the Overall World Cup standings. Photo: Marco Tacca / AP

Kransjka Gora brought an opportunity for both the US Ski Team and the Canadian Ski Team to field a couple of World Cup newcomers. Hailing from Tyron, North Carolina, Kranjska Gora brought a second career World Cup start for 19-year-old Nicola Rountree-Williams. After finding success with a NorAm Giant Slalom podium in Panorama, Canada, Rountree-Williams made her World Cup debut in Zagreb, Croatia. Kranjska Gora was the 2020 Youth Olympian’s first Giant Slalom start, and she started with bib 45. Unfortunately, a mistake at the top of the final pitch caused her to miss out on a second run. Canada’s Britt Richardson was also competing in her second World Cup and started 50th. Despite the tough snow conditions that presented themselves in the latter stages of the race, the 18-year-old from Alberta came down 27th and earned herself a second run. Quebec’s 20-year-old Sarah Bennett started the Super-G in Lake Louise also got her second World Cup start in Kranjska Gora but despite a visually clean run found herself off the pace and out of contention for a second run, 3.1s behind Sara Hector.

19-year-old Nicola Rountree-Williams (pictured here competing at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland) raced her second career World Cup in Kranjska Gora. Unfortunately, a mistake midrun kept her off the start list for the second run. Photo: usskiandsnowboard.org

Swiss skier Andrea Ellenberger kicked off the 2nd run down a seemingly similar course set and set the combined time to beat of a 2:18.24. Britt Richardson started with an advantage on Ellenberger but was unable to match the pace of the more-experienced Swiss skier. Ellenberger’s run would hold up, and she gained 18 places. Ellenberger ended the day in 13th, her 5th top-15 result. Richardson also gained, however, and finished 22nd to earn the first World Cup points of her career.

Minnesota’s Paula Moltzan also qualified for the second run, after coming down 22nd in the first run. Moltzan was one of two Americans in the top-30 but lost traction on her outside ski in the lower half of the course. Despite the violent crash, Moltzan was able to stand and walk off the course on her own. Star of the US Ski Team, Mikaela Shiffrin started the second run uncharacteristically early, after being 14th in the first run. Shiffrin’s second run was executed smoothly and in true Shiffrin style, despite challenging conditions. Shiffrin managed to gain 7 places on her first run result and ended in 7th. Shiffrin’s main rival challenger Petra Vlhova finished 14th, despite a strong second run.

Despite a shaky second run, France’s Tessa Worley’s time held as she took her 34th career World Cup podium. Photo: Marco Tacca / AP

Sweden’s Sara Hector proved unstoppable in Kranjska Gora. The four-time Olympian grew her advantage even more through the second run to take her third career World Cup victory. Tessa Worley from France and Marta Bassino of Italy lost pace on their second runs, but strong first runs from each of the World Cup veterans allowed them to remain in contention and round out the podium.

Despite a result that left her off the podium, Shiffrin retains her lead in the Overall World Cup rankings. Petra Vlhova also remains second, while Sara Hector jumps up to fourth. Hector also now leads the race for the Giant Slalom Crystal Globe, with Shiffrin in second. The Women’s circuit now heads to Schladming, Austria for a night slalom on January 11th, with Super-G and Downhill close behind in Zauchensee, Austria on January 15th and 16th.

Full results and schedule can be found at fis-ski.com

The first Giant Slalom podium of 2022 from Kranjska Gora, Slovenia; 1st – Sara Hector (SWE), 2nd – Tessa Worley (FRA), 3rd – Marta Bassino (ITA). Photo: Stanko Gruden / Zoom

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