It is a weekend of records being broken! After Felix Neureuther scored Germany’s first Giant Slalom World Cup win in 40 years, Canada celebrated their first Super Combined win in the girls races in thirty years with Marie Michelle Gagnon coming from … 16th after the Super G leg to win the Super Combined. Michaela Kirchgasser took second just seven hundredths ahead of Maria Hoefl-Riesch.
It seemed that the form book had been thrown out of the window after the Super G section of the race: Niki Hosp, who had started out her career as a successful technical skier was leading the race ahead of two the leading lights of the speed circuit: Tina Weirather and Anna Fenninger. Tina Maze, one of the stronger slalom racers was lurking in sixth and Marie Hoefl-Riesch was a little out of sorts down in tenth place, almost a full second off the pace.
Gagnon was down in 16th and not really on many peoples radar for the podium let alone the win. Gagnon has been knocking on the door of doing big things all season. The top ten results have been racking up with impressive regularity. Starting midway through the second run, conditions were fast deteriorating and the Canadian, with four top tens in World Cup slalom this season, took her chance to better the time set by Kirchgasser who had held the lead for some time.
The Super Combined is the poor relation in the World Cup: It has lost its status with no Globe being awarded and there are only two races on the calendar this season. Many have argued that it should be dropped altogether but this would also mean it losing its Olympic status and medals are medals. Five and a half thousand hardy souls made it up to the hill in Zauchensee to watch the two runs, one of Super G and the other of Slalom.
While Hoelf-Riesch is the defending Olympic Super Combined Champion from Vancouver, this was not her greatest day on the short boards. The German did not feel great, she admitted, as she came down the hill and when she crossed the line into third, she did not feel that she would stay there. Hoefl-Riesch had good reason for this as leading the field was Hosp and she is a good Slalom skier.
With racer after racer suffering anxiety it seemed and dropping off the pace, the podium stayed the same. Much was expected of Tina Maze but with her new coach, Mauro Pini, dividing his time between coaching Maze, setting the slalom course and commentating for Swiss TV, Maze failed to make a move that challenged the leader board – she eventually finished a shadow of her performance of last year down in sixth.
Fenninger and Weirather both also failed to trouble the leaders and dropped off the pace.
So it was then a straight shoot out between Gagnon, leading in the finish, and Hosp, a four time Slalom World Cup winner and 18 times in total on the podium in the Slalom World Cup. By half way the lead was in tatters and disappearing. By the time she crossed the line it had gone and so to had her chance of the podium as she slipped down into fourth.
So Canada take the win, their first since Gerry Sorenson in 1984 won in Puys St Vincent, five years before Gagnon was even born!