Slalom champ an ‘Olympic comet’

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Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen was as shocked as his competitors when he seized his first World Cup slalom race win in Schladming, Austria on Tuesday evening.  The 19-year-old rocketed home in the first evening slalom event of his first World Cup season, leaving the Sochi Olympics favourites in his wake.

henrik kristoffersen

Marcel Hirscher and Felix Neureuther hoist Henrik Kristoffersen into the air after the 19-year-old’s first World Cup win in the night slalom event. PHOTO: International Ski Federation/Agence Zoom

“I think I realize what’s going on but it’s kind of hard to say right away,” Kristoffersen told the International Ski Federation after the event. “But I know it’s real – I just won my first World Cup race! I didn’t expect it to happen so fast, I was hoping for it but it’s all still new to me. Last year my best place was an 11th place.”

Austrian Marcel Hirscher came in second place, with Germany’s Felix Neureuther finishing third. Kristoffersen was hoisted onto the shoulders of his skiing idols after the race. “I watched these two guys for a long time, I looked at Marcel’s skiing and try to adapt my skiing to his while keeping my own twist to it,” he said, adding he was still their biggest fan and the day’s events were “crazy.”

Hirscher was full of praise for Kristoffersen, calling him a consistent and solid skier. “This young boy showed us all how it’s done,” he said at the post-race press conference. “He has brilliant technique and smart skiing. I would almost say that he is one of the leaders of a new generation that we can all learn from.”

Praised by Norwegian stars
Alpine ski champion Aksel Lund Svindal took to social network Twitter after the win, reported newspaper Aftenposten. “Last week I said that Henrik Kristoffersen is a superstar!!!!” Svindal tweeted. “Now everyone should know it.”

Kristoffersen’s own mother, Hilde Kristoffersen, was predictably thrilled as well, calling his World Cup victory “completely indescribable.” State broadcaster NRK reported that she shed a few tears from her spot in the stands: “Yeah, Mamma is here to see this,” Kristoffersen himself told NRK. “She started to cry, typical!”

Norway’s last Olympic slalom gold medalist was Hans Petter Buraas in 1998. He called Kristoffersen a shooting star, and said there were some very strong names behind him on the podium. “He has won the last victory before the Olympics,” Buraas said. “The focus will be extreme around him. It’s maybe more comfortable to be the underdog and surprise the rest of the gang, but there are five or six runners who’ve proven themselves this year, and everyone has the opportunity to win.”

Buraas said Kristoffersen, who hails from the Romerike area just northeast of Oslo and has been skiing for the Rælingen Ski Club, should do exactly as he has done heading into the Olympics: focus on the task at hand, look at what’s happening around him, have fun and do the things he loves about skiing. The win caps off Kristoffersen’s two third place and one second place finishes so far in the season. Woodgate