Veronika Veles Zuzulova battled the partisan Austrian crowd as well as Tina Maze to win her first World Cup Slalom in Semmering, Austria. Trailing the all conquering Slovenian, Maze, after the first run, Zuzulova by over half a second, the Slovakian attacked and put in a time that would be challenging for the Slovenian. With Kathrin Zettel in the finish having taken the lead after her run, Zuzulova’s run to take the lead from the Austrian, quietened the partisan crowd. When Tina Maze came down and dropped to third overall, Zettel remained in second and the win was Zuzulova’s first.
Racing at home, Zettel explained, is made a bigger advantage by the crowd. Since the last race here two years ago Zettel had not trained in Semmering yet felt that she was driven home to better the time of maria Hoefl-Riesch who was in the lead in the finish. With both Michaela’s, Kirchgasser and Shiffrin having skied out, Hoefl-Riesch knew that she had to put in a great time if she was to have a chance of being on the podium. Her run had been good but she had left herself too much to do after the first run, she had a gap of over one and a half seconds.
For Zettel, in third after the first run, it is always exciting racing at Semmering, she explained after the race: “Semmering is a great place for me, I have won twice and been second twice so Yes I am very lucky here. I was nervous after yesterday did not work out so well. But it was a day full of excitement. It is always exciting racing before the home crowd.” The crowd went wild with her in the lead yet showed respect to the others.
For Zuzulova, the excitement of the race and the thrill of the chasing that illusive win are what have kept her going. Zuzulova has been skiing well in training she explained and with the support of her father and her husband as her coaching team, she knew that if she kept going the win would come. This was that time. After coming second six times, this was a moment for her to savour, she felt.
With Zuzulova in the finish and in the lead with Zettel second, Maze tried to focus on her own racing but realised that it was hard with all the cheering in the finish area, she admitted afterwards.
Maze has lead after the first run in a slalom once before but she failed to finish that time. This time she tried to ski safe and fast but despite having the lead of over half a second on Zuzulova, it was not enough as with each turn she lost a little more time. “I thought I could do it but you can lose a lot of time. To win it is never enough to just come down,” she explained after the race. Ever the optimist though she added “It is the first time I have finished here, before today I had never finished in Semmering so always look on the bright side of life!”
Maze took third place in the end, edging Hoefl-Riesch down to fourth for the second race in a row. In the finish she looked angry yet she was “disappointed after the second run, I was really hoping that I would win and should ski better, I did not so I was disappointed. I am happy for Veronika, it was her first victory and it is great to see. There was too much emotion from me today.”
So the year ends with Maze in the lead in Overall widened and she has taken lead in Slalom. “Am skiing well at the end of the year. I hope I can continue this way into the next year,” she explained.