Val Gardena/Gröden (South Tyrol/Italy), December 23rd, 2013 - A record number of spectators, great weather, a forerunner with deep course knowledge and two winners who are linked through a training partnership: these are the stories that emerged from the 2013 World Cup week in the valley.
A record audience: Saslong Stadium sold-out
10,000 spectators, more than ever before, watched live the Downhill on the Saslong. The finish stadium was sold out, a first in the 46-year history of the Saslong. "This racing week was one of the best we ever had" is how OC General Manager Stefania Demetz sums up the week. "Everything fell into place this year; also the entertainment program was well executed and rounded out the week."
Weathermen or weather gods
Part of what made the week a success was that the weather turned out well after two years of meteorological heartache. In 2011, the Downhill had to be called off after 21 racers had finished, last year the start had to be moved further down the course due to last-minute fresh snow. It would have been a medium catastrophe if South Tyrol's largest winter sport event hadn’t been executed as planned for the third year in a row. The OC relied on not one, but two weather forecast services to be better prepared for all potential weather situations. Race Director Rainer Senoner: "We have been working closely with the weather services in Bolzano/Bozen and Arabba for a few years. In fact, we built dedicated weather stations at the Start and the Finish and had several meteorologists in attendance.”
Thin layer of snow lead to long jumps and a choppy Ciaslat
"Organizers have done a great job preparing the course despite conditions that weren't always easy over the last few weeks and months. There are even more waves and bumps than in years past, primarily due to the thin layer of snow" says FIS Race Director Günter Hujara of the course. Italian skier Werner Heel said it best: "Skis are more airborne than on snow on Ciaslat."
Impressive slow-motion TV images have brought to live the expressive, powerful yet agile movements as the athletes ride on the Saslong. For the first time, the TV production company made use of a high-speed camera in Val Gardena/Gröden.
Once again, athletes were of two minds when it came to describing this year's course: those who love long jumps - such as the Canadians - were exalted about it, and those who saw their misgivings of this gliding course reconfirmed, e.g., Bode Miller: "The jumps were too long but otherwise the course is not that exciting. It is hard to know how to ski fast. Those in the lead don't know why they are so fast, those who are behind are struggling to explain where they lost time. It seems that all are skiing the same way."
Airbag and Ski Gramps
Two premieres took place on the Saslong before the actual speed specialists had a chance to race for World Cup points: one was a return, the other was a first. Former Dowhnhill Vice Champion and Super G World Cup winner Peter Runggaldier from Val Gardena /Gröden is turning 45 on December 29th - he can almost be considered a ski gramps. Despite his age, Runggaldier snapped on his skis and opened the Downhill race as the first forerunner to accomplish the course. In retirement for 13 years, Runggaldier declined the safety measures that were tested for the first time in actual racing conditions: FIS and protection gear manufacturer Dainese have been working together for four years to develop an air-bag safety system for Downhill skiers. It was tested during the second training run by the Italian Werner Heel and the Canadian Jan Hudec.
Training cooperation Norway - Canada pays off
The innovation will not be put into use before the 2014/15 season at the earliest. Racers were met by safety nets, but without the inflatable bottoms. With the exception of a few medium but not sever injuries of Italians Dominik Paris and Matteo Marsaglia, reports from Val Gardena were luckily not of injuries but rather happy winners. And for both races, winners come from the Cannor team, a team that doesn't exist in reality. Cannor is the training partnership between the Canadians and the Norwegians. Looks like the Saslong is made for skiers from the Cannor team, as Aksel Lund Svindal took the gold in the Super-G ahead of Jan Hudec, who then won the Downhill ahead of Kjetil Jansrud (NOR). “Our partnership with Canada is very successful. We are doing the right thing, our training and spirit are in the right place. It was NOR-CAN yesterday, and today it is the other way around. “ is how Jansrud described his new team.
Marzola prize goes to Denmark
Denmark is also a winner here in Val Gardena/Gröden. While geographically located close to Norway, it is not part of successful Cannor, yet. But there was one ranking where Denmark was in the lead. Danish skier Christoffer Faarup was the youngest skier in the Downhill race on the Saslong and as such he was awarded Euro 1,500. The Marzola prize has been awarded since 2002 in honor of Gianni Marzola who was a leading supporter of the ski sport in Val Gardena/Gröden.
25 Yeas Club 5: anniversary celebration
Not one, but 16 winners were celebrated at the 25 Years Club 5 anniversary dinner – that is the number of organizers the association is counting as members. The group of organizers celebrated its history since its formation in 1988 at a dinner at restaurant Costamula in a historic farm house built in 1608 in Ortisei/St.Ulrich.
Farewell 1: Erich Demetz resigns as Chairman of FIS Alpine World Cup Committee
One of Club 5’s leading men Erich Demetz has announced his retirement during the racing week in the valley. For the past 50 years, Demetz has shaped the skiing world as an honorary functionary not only in Val Gardena/Gröden, but also in Italy and internationally. Now, after 28 years, Demetz will retire from his role of Chairman, thereby ending his career as an official of FIS.
Farewell 2: Superman cartoon for (Super-)Günter Hujara
The organizers of the World Cup have taken the opportunity to bid farewell to Günter Hujara after the Super-G race. After 23 years as FIS Race Director, the German will resign from his post at the end of the season. A Superman-inspired cartoon of Hujara was presented as a farewell gift.
Live reporting on Internet, Facebook and Twitter
Still checking the newspapers to find out who is in the lead during the training run in Val Gardena/Gröden? That is in the past. Once again, the Organizing Committee has pulled together an online editorial staff who is reporting in real-time – and three languages – on the happenings on and off the Saslong. On www.Saslong.org, via live ticker, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are reports, pictures and audio files of the trainings runs, races, press conferences for the 300 members of the media, local and regional media as well as all those interested in sports from the comfort of their home.