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07th January 2020.
Snow Queen Trophy 2020 on Sljeme

Clement Noel, Sljeme 2020

On Sunday January 5th, the men's slalom race was held on Sljeme (Zagreb) in which Frenchman Clement Noel managed to win, while Croatian skiers managed to get just one top-30 finish.
The day before the women's slalom race, the first place went to Slovakian Petra Vlhova.


The race was held in the afternoon, as it is one of the nighttime races in the calendar of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom races. In the first run, the Swiss skier Ramon Zenhaeursen took first place, after he went down the slope first, with the no. 1 bib. Michael Matt of Germany, with bib 4, was placed second, while the third-place finish surprisingly went to Linus Strasser, who started the race with the bib number 31.

The Croatian skiers didn't really impress anyone in the first run: the best result was achieved by Istok Rodeš, who was 19th and who was the only Croatian to qualify for the second run. Matej Vidović, as well as Elias and Samuel Kolega didn't finish the first run, while Leon Nikić and Filip Zubčić got the positions 39 and 40 (out of 45 finishers). The biggest controversy of the first run was Alexis Pinturault's run. It seemed as if he had made a disqualifying mistake, however, he completed the race - and was quickly disqualified right after it. However, after the French delegation complained, his race was deemed to have not been incorrect, so his result was re-instated, and he finished the first run 14th.

In the end, French skier Clement Noel, fourth in the first run, won with 0.07 seconds in front of the leader from the first run, Zenhaeursen. Young Italian skier Alex Vintazer, eighth in the first run was third total, 0.29 seconds behind the winner. Croatian Istok Rodeš was 25th, with the final time of 1:58.78, 1.64 seconds behind the winner. Michael Matt and Linus Strasser weren't able to repeat their great performances in the second run: Matt was the only skier unable to finish it, while Strasser was 8th total. 

Former Croatian skier Ivica Kostelić, overall World Cup title winner in 2011, complained after the first run of the Snow Queen Trophy that the setup of the race was too simple and easy, as if it was made for the children's race and not the World Cup where the elite skiers compete against each other (total-croatia-news.com)


Petra Vlhova, sljeme 2020

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova has won the Audi FIS Ski World Cup “Snow Queen Trophy” 2020 slalom for the first time. After coming second on Sljeme in 2017 and 2019, the 24-year-old Slovak completed two fantastic runs, thus ending the winning streak of the American Mikaela Shiffrin, who won the Sljeme title four times.  “I felt great today. I was cheered on by supporters from both Slovakia and Croatia, and I really felt as if I had been on home turf. Naturally, the fact that I started first helped me as well, since the course was in the best possible condition. My first run was excellent, while Mikaela made some minor mistakes, which in the end decided the outcome of the race. Going into the second run, even though I knew I had a huge advantage, I managed to keep my focus and I think that helped me the most to ski that well,” said Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova at the press conference, after winning the race ahead of the American Mikaela Shiffrin and Austrian Katharina Liensberger, thus bagging her 11th World Cup title. With her fantastic two runs on Sljeme, Vlhova claimed her first slalom win this season and announced an unpredictable outcome of the season. “For now, both Mikaela and I are skiing better than any other skier this season. Still, I do believe that, in time, other skiers will catch up with us, and that it will be a close battle. I am doing my best to prepare for every race, and I will try to win as many of them as I can. Anything will be possible then, I believe.”

The amazing 24-year-old American Mikaela Shiffrin came second in this evening’s race (+1.31). Shiffrin is this season’s leader in both overall and slalom standings in the World Cup. “I felt good and I thought I had done a good first run, even though in certain parts of the course I hadn’t skied as I had planned. Still, I believe that even without those minor mistakes, I would not have beaten Petra, as she had been that good. I tried to be more aggressive in the second run, in order to find an even better feeling, but today it was only good for the second place. I am glad Petra won the Snow Queen title this year, especially since the race takes place so close to Slovakia and many of the spectators rooted for her,” said Mikaela, who has won the Sljeme title as many as four times in the past five years.

“I believe it will be a very interesting battle until the very end of the season, although I am in the lead at the moment. I am confident Petra will do everything she can to be the best, but I will also work on myself and prepare for every single race to be at the top level,” Shiffrin added, speaking about today’s winner. The American has won as many as 19 of the last 24 World Cup slaloms.

Austria’s Katharina Liensberger took third place (+3.49) at this year’s edition of the “Snow Queen Trophy”, climbing the podium on Sljeme for the very first time. Although she had been fourth after the first run, behind Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, Liensberger caught up with the Swiss skier in the second run, securing the third position. “I am dreaming of becoming the next big ski star from Austria. It is wonderful to ski here in Zagreb and I am aware of the effort that went into taking the race to such a high level. I would like to congratulate both Mikaela and Petra. Today, the two of them showed everyone how well they skied, and it was a pleasure to watch them. The atmosphere at this race is truly unique. There were many spectators cheering on all the skiers, and I felt incredible after crossing the finish line,” said the 22-year-old Austrian.

This year’s “Snow Queen Trophy” slalom featured two Croatian representatives, Leona Popović and Ida Štimac. Leona had a great race on Sljeme, placing 31st after coming four seconds and six hundredths of a second behind the Slovak Vlhova. Even though she had had a great run, Leona failed to qualify for the second run by just nine hundredths of a second. The other Croatian representative, Ida Štimac, started very well and was quite determined in the first part of the course; however, she then made a mistake after the steep part of the course and, unfortunately, failed to cross the finish line in the first run.

After today’s ladies’ slalom, tomorrow, on 5 January 2020, we have the Audi FIS Ski World Cup “Snow Queen Trophy” 2020 men’s slalom. The first run will start at 2:15 PM and the second at 5:40 PM. Croatia will be represented by as many as six skiers; they are all in great form this season and can hardly wait for the start of one of the country’s biggest sporting events. (snowqueentrophy.com)


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