Slovenia

Weekend Roundup (September, 17th): Slovenia wins the 2017 EuroBasket

Welcome to our new weekly report in Wheeling a round puck: the Weekend Roundup, where we’ll provide a rundown of the events that happened in the world of sport on the two busiest days of each seven-day spam.

While this concept is still a work in progress that is sure to see a few chances over the next months, the hope is that these pieces – mostly informative, but veering into commentary at times – will deliver a sensible summary of the most important incidents and results from a selected group of sports.

Therefore, football (mostly the five major European leagues), cycling (World Tour races) and tennis (ATP and WTA Tour) will be ever present – except in the offseason, of course – and it’s probable we’ll also venture regularly into the World Cup of the major winter sports (alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross country, biathlon) when time comes.

Moreover, we’ll tackle other sports as the calendar rolls around and major competitions from the likes of Athletics, Swimming or ice hockey take the spotlight. As you’ve already guessed, in this first post basketball makes an appearance due to the end of the 2017 EuroBasket, and that’s precisely the model to follow. So, let’s jump right into the hoop(s).

Basketball: Slovenian delight in Istanbul

After 18 days of competition across Europe, the European Basketball Championships ended this Sunday at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, Turkey, the location selected to host the knockout rounds of a competition whose group stage span four different countries (Finland, Israel, Romania, Turkey) for the second time.

Slovenia and Serbia, two nations that were once part of the Republic of Yugoslavia, made it out of the 24-team field to contest the decisive match and, following a thrilling spectacle, the Slovenians were crowned European Champions for the first time by virtue of a 93-85 win.

Built around an explosive backcourt that featured Miami Heat’s point guard Goran Dragić, and 18-year-old wunderkind Luka Dončić (Real Madrid), the Slovenian’s high-flying offense had earned rave reviews throughout their flawless campaign (8-0 in the final tournament, 6-0 in qualifying), yet the Serbian’s were able to establish control in the first ten minutes and close the first quarter up 22-20.

However, with the nerves of a maiden Final put on the rear view, Slovenia took charge in the second inspired by a sublime Dragić – who ended the game with 35 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals – and they crafted a nine point advantage (56-47) at the half.

After the break, Serbia’s hopes were hanging by a thread as Slovenia looked to pull out, yet disaster struck with 4.44 min to go in the third when the influential Dončić hurt his left ankle. A consternated green-and-white fan section looked frozen as his prodigy was helped off the court, and the situation offered a perfect rallying call for their opponent. Led by Bogdan Bogdanović, which served as Serbia’s primary facilitator in the absence (from the tournament) of the entrancing Miloš Teodosić, the deficit shrank and, by the middle of the fourth period, the lead was changing hands in every possession.

It was right around this time that Slovenia’s captain Goran Dragić was also forced to leave with an injury, and few believed his team would still be able to pull off victory without its two best players. But, stunningly, they did, with their backup guards Jaka Blažič and Aleksej Nikolić coming up big in crunch time, shooter Klemen Prepelič icing big three pointers all night, naturalized forward Anthony Randolph stepping up in the final minutes, or center Gašper Vidmar making a huge block on a Bogdanović reserve lay-up to stunt Serbia’s chances of a late comeback.

Slovenian players exult after the final buzzer (credits: fiba.eurobasket)

A truly epic team effort to seal a sensational run by Slovenia, which swept Group A (Helsinki, Finland), dispatched Ukraine in the round of 16, fended off a Kristaps Porzingis-led Latvia in the quarters, and vanquished the defending Champions Spain in the semi-finals to surpass their previous best result at the EuroBasket: a fourth place in 2009, when they fell to Serbia in overtime on the semis. Not bad for a country of just 2.1M people.

Moreover, to cap it off, Goran Dragić was elected the tournament MVP, and he was joined by Dončić, Russia’s Alexei Shved, Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanović and Spain’s Pau Gasol on the EuroBasket All-Tournament Team. In the third place game, Spain defeated Russia (93-85) to claim bronze and provide a fitting send off for retiring captain Juan Carlos Navarro, who collected a staggering tenth international medal with the national team.

Tennis: Belgium and France qualify for Davis Cup Final

Third consecutive week without ATP Tour events, as Grand Slam action in New York was immediately followed by the last batch of Davis Cup ties highlighted, naturally, by the semi-finals of the World Group.  France and Belgium hosted Serbia and Australia, respectively, and they took full advantage of home court to book a spot on the Final, scheduled for late November in France.

In Lille, the French faced a Serbian team missing Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki, but they couldn’t avoid an early scare when Lucas Pouille succumbed to Dušan Lajović in four sets at the opener. However, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made quick work of rookie Laslo Đere to level on Friday, and then two-time Grand Slam Champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut won in doubles to set France on the right path.

Tsonga completed the job by ousting Lajovic on Sunday, laying waste to the final rubber, and thus sending the team captained by Yannick Noah to a third final in seven years (2010, 2014). With no Novak Djokovic (2010), Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka (2014) standing on their way, France has no excuses this time. They should end their 16-year drought in a couple of months.

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga jubilates after winning the Davis Cup semi final against Serbia (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Meanwhile, in Brussels, pundits expected a cracking matchup and it delivered. Belgium’s No.1, David Goffin, dropped the first set against John Millman but rebounded quickly to pull the hosts in front, while Nick Kyrgios rallied back from 2-1 down to brush past Steve Darcis in five sets and level at 1-1.

On Saturday, Australia’s pair (John Peers/Jordan Thompson) captured victory in commanding fashion, yet Belgium was able to respond with their backs to the wall 24 hours later. The resolute Goffin slowed down Kyrgios to triumph in four, and then Darcis snatched the vital third point in a straight sets victory over Jordan Thompson. Elation in Brussels. Belgium will make a short trip south of the border to contest a second Davis Cup Final in three years after capitulating at home to Andy Murray’s Great Britain back in 2015. Maybe they’re reserved better luck as huge underdogs on the road.

The plucky Belgians are back in the Davis Cup Final (Emmanuel Dunand /AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In the World Group playoffs, Canada (without Milos Raonic), Croatia, Germany (missing  the Zverev brothers and Philipp Kohlschreiber) and Switzerland (no Wawrinka or Federer) were able to guarantee another year amongst the elite, while Russia was upset by Hungary and the 2012 and 2013 Champions Czech Republic fell to the Netherlands. Without Del Potro, Argentina lost at Kazakhstan to become just the third nation to be relegated the year after winning the title, while the Japan-Brazil (3-1) tie was only concluded on Monday after rain and an incoming typhoon cancelled play in Osaka on the weekend.

On the WTA Tour, the aftermath of the US Open brought a week imbued with two small, 125k international tournaments (Tokyo and Québec City) boasting rather unremarkable draws. Consequently, it wasn’t exactly a major surprise that the Japan Women’s Open Final pitted two qualifiers, World No. 171 Miyu Kato and Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas (No.100), nor that the slightly more experienced competitor eventually prevailed.

Diyas, a finalist on the same tournament back in 2014 (loss to Sam Stosur), conjured better memories this time and triumphed by 6-2, 7-5 to hold aloft her first WTA Tour trophy. Incidentally, despite a stronger field, similar scenes were observed in Canada, where Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck defeated Hungary’s Tímea Babos in three sets (5-7, 6-4, 6-1) to conquer the 25th Tournoi de Québec and her first title at this level.

Zarina Diyas, of Kazakhstan, kisses the trophy of the Japan Women’s Open

Cycling: Irrepressible Matteo Trentin keeps rolling

With no World tour races on the calendar ahead of the World Championships, the highest ranked competition of the weekend was the Primus Classic (1.HC), also known as the GP Impanis-Van Petegem. A Belgium event won by the likes of Fernando Gavíria, Andre Greipel or Greg van Avermaet in recent seasons, this year’s edition reaffirmed the credentials of one of the most in-form riders on the tour.

Fresh off four stage wins in Spain, Quick-Step Floors’ Matteo Trentin flexed his muscles once again to triumph in Boortmeerbeek, Flanders, on Saturday. Part of a 15-men group sitting in front of the peloton late, the 28-year-old disregarded a highly-advantageous situation for his team – numbers in the break and sprinter Gaviria lined up to take victory – when he took off with 6.5 km to go carrying just BMC’s Jean-Pierre Drucker on his trail. A risky move bound to upset his directors had it gone wrong, but one the Italian would follow up perfectly when he eschewed his partner-in-crime with a couple of kilometres to go and rode solo to raise his arms at the finish line.

Victory for Matteo Trentin in Belgium

With the World Championships road race one week away, that was a mightily impressive display from the man that should lead a strong Italian contingent looking for a first title since 2008.

This weekend also concluded the 2017 Tour of Denmark with a fourth consecutive overall triumph for a local boy. About to complete his first World Tour season, 21-year-old Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo), the Danish National Champion, held off two-time winner (2014, 2016) Michael Valgren (Astana Pro Team) to secure his best career win to date in front of his compatriots. Pedersen had obtained the lead after winning stage 3, edging Valgren at the finish, and he administered his meagre advantage during Friday’s ITT and Saturday’s last stage, when he finished second to Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) to clinch victory in the general classification.

On Sunday, the UCI World Championships kicked off in Bergen with the team time trial competition. Since the rebirth of the event, in 2012, only five teams (BMC, Quick Step, Orica-Scott, Sky and Movistar) had managed to medal, yet the day would belong to Team Sunweb, still regarded as an outsider despite boasting, probably, the best time trail specialist in the World.

Team Sunweb won the team time trial title at the start of the World Championships in Bergen (NTB Scanpix/Cornelius Poppe via REUTERS)

With Tom Dumoulin and fellow Dutch Wilco Kelderman powering the six-men unit, the German outfit upended pre-race favourites BMC, who repeated the second place of 2016, and the star-studded Team Sky, whose lineup contained Chris Froome and former World Champions Vasil Kyrienka (ITT, 2015) and Michal Kwiatkowski (road race, 2014). Quick-Step Floors, who has won a record three times, including in 2016, finished fourth, 35 seconds off Team Sunweb’s pace.

Football: Shorthanded Real Madrid pulls through at San Sebastián

La Liga

Traditionally, Real Sociedad’s Anoeta is one of the toughest grounds in Spain, and Real Madrid didn’t make their task any easier by dropping points unexpectedly in the previous two matchdays and lining up without Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema (all injured) and Cristiano Ronaldo (suspended). Zidane’s team couldn’t afford to give Barça more leeway at the top of the table, and they didn’t, scrapping a 3-1 victory against a team that was three of three up to this game.

One day earlier, at Getafe, FC Barcelona suffered to keep their 100% win record intact and the four-point gap on the rivals. The hosts scored first, on a screamer from Shibasaki – the first goal allowed by the Catalans on the league – but substitutes Denis Suárez and the much-scorned Paulinho turned the game around. The bad news would came later, when it was announced their 105M addiction Ousmane Dembélé had been ruled out for a few months with a thigh injury.

Paulinho’s first goal with FC Barcelona allowed the Catalans to grab the three points at Getafe (Denis Doyle/GettyImages)

Elsewhere, Atlético Madrid opened their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, with a narrow 1-0 victory over last place Málaga. Antoine Griezmann scored the game’s lone goal and the “Colchoneros” moved up the table to fourth, tied with their city rivals, while Sevilla passed at Girona with a goal from Colombian forward Luis Muriel and rose to second, with 10 pts. At the bottom, Málaga is still stuck on neutral, as is Alavés, still goalless on the season and comprehensively beaten at home by Villareal (0-3) this week.

English Premier League

Heading into round 5, Manchester United and Manchester City shared the Premier League lead with 10 pts, and things didn’t change in the weekend after both sides picked up easy wins and watched as their competitors left points on the board.

On Saturday, Manchester City cruised to another rout, pumping 6 goals at Watford, who had entered the round undefeated (2W, 2D). Kun Agüero tallied three times on the afternoon to  push the Citizens goal scoring record over the last seven days to a staggering 15-0, while their rivals responded by dispatching the struggling Everton (1 win in five matches) by 4-0. It wasn’t as easy as it looks though, since Old Trafford was only allowed a sigh of relief when Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the second goal in the 83th minute.

Argentine striker Sergio Agüero was on top form in Man City’s visit to Watford (AFP Photo/Ben STANSALL)

Chelsea continues in pursue of the front duo, but they lost ground after drawing 0-0 against Arsenal. Liverpool dropped points at home once again, this time to Burnley (1-1), while Tottenham couldn’t break past Swansea’s wall and have yet to win at Wembley for the Premier League. It stands to reason their mid-week triumph over Dortmund didn’t broke the curse, and that’s good news for a team like Newcastle, who won for a third consecutive week after dropping the first two matches of the campaign, and leaped to fourth.

At the bottom, Crystal Palace’s sacking of Frank de Boer and subsequent appointment of Roy Hodgson didn’t pay immediate dividends, as the former England manager oversaw a 0-1 defeat to Southampton that saw the South Londoners write some history…

And the nightmare may not end soon since their next three opponents are Man City (a), Man Utd (a), and Chelsea (h)…

Serie A

Inter, Juve and Napoli had collected three points in every game played and they kept the pace in round four. The Nerazzurri found two late goals at Crotone to snatch victory, Paulo Dybala bagged a hat trick to steer Juventus on their visit to Sassuolo and now counts eight goals in four matches, and Napoli schooled newly-promoted Benevento (0 pts, last place) at the San Paolo (6-0).

Ciro Immobile’s brace helped Lazio came out victorious at Genoa (2-3), keeping the capital side two points off the top, while AC Milan bounced back from last week’s loss with the Laziale to climb to fifth, with 9 pts, after overcoming Udinese (2-1)

Bundesliga

After being surprised on the Europa League mid-week, Hoffenheim couldn’t beat Hertha Berlin at home on Sunday, and were thus dumped out of the front carriage. Hannover and Dortmund, who routed Cologne (5-0) and have yet to concede a goal, are now the duo ahead, with ten points each, while Bayern Munich is right behind.

The Bavarians calmed their fans with a cool 4-0 home win over Mainz courtesy of their star forwards. Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski (2) were on target, and the five-time defending Champions now accumulate nine points, the same as Schalke 04, who triumphed at Werder Bremen.

Thomas Muller (#25) and Robert Lewandowski (#9) celebrate one of the goals scored against Mainz on Saturday (Andreas Gebert/dpa)

Last year’s runners-up RB Leipzig were stifled by Borussia Mönchengladbach (2-2), while Bayer Leverkusen finally picked up a win (4-0, Freiburg) to leave the relegation zone.

Ligue 1

Monaco hosted Strasbourg after the humbling 0-4 defeat in Nice last week, and they did what was asked, with Falcao notching twice in their 3-0 victory to keep them three points off PSG. The Colombian now has 9 goals in 6 games to top the Golden Shoe race, and distanced himself from Edison Cavani, who was held off the scoresheet as the Parisians eventually broke Lyon’s opposition late. It took own goals by defenders Marcelo and Jérémy Morel, but PSG is now a perfect six of six.

Saint-Etiénne, winners 1-0 at Dijon, are in third place with 13 pts, followed by Bordeux, Lyon and Marseille, while Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille lost in stoppage time at Guingamp, and haven’t taken three points since the opening fixture. They have 5 pts amassed in six matches, and are just one above the red line.

Moment of the weekend

A couple of outstanding football goals around the world this week, but we’ll grant the stage on this first Weekend Roundup to another debut.

After 50 years at the Vicente Calderón, Atletico Madrid revealed their new home and Antoine Griezmann was the man on duty, directing home the ball after an excellence play down the right flank by Angel Correa. A goal worth three points for Diego Simeone’s team, and just another reason to celebrate on a special night.

 

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Alpine skiing World Cup 2015 season review (I): The Austro-Slovenian Empire

1989 was undoubtedly a great year. The World Wide Web was invented, the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War would be finished as the calendar was about to turn. However, for Austria, the last year of the 80´s may be also remembered one day as the birth year of two of the biggest sporting idols in the history of the country.
Marcel Hirscher and Anna Fenninger were already the current gold standards of the country’s beloved skiing obsession and now share the glorious distinction as multiple World Cup overall Champions. Their 2015 titles were sealed on the last weekend at the French resort of Méribel, but until then both had to fight hard to see off the challenges provided by Norwegian speedster Kjetil Jansrud and Slovenian superstar Tina Maze.
This article will depict a five-month marathon to earn those shinning big crystal globes and pay respect to all those that dazzled on the snow to make up another unforgettable Alpine skiing season. As prerequisite, I’ll start with the ladies.
Women’s World Cup Review
Anna Fenninger had conquered the first World Cup (WC) title of his career at the end of 2014, but her worthiness was still at stake after a late season crash by Maria Hoefl-Riesch helped push her over the edge. Thus, with the German retired, Lindsay Vonn still nursing from two years marred by injuries, and Tina Maze coming off a lost season for his high standards, the Austrian had every reason to start the season on a roll and the inaugural sights did not disappoint. At the maiden race of the season, Fenninger shared with Mikaela Shiffrin the top place on the Giant Slalom (GS) podium at Solden and stamped a pole position for the long run. What nobody expected was the Salzburg-native inability to win again until the second month of 2015, and the rejuvenated Maze took the first slalom of the year, at Levi, a few weeks later to snag a lead she would hold through the months ahead.

Anna Fenninger and Mikaela Shiffrin shared the triumph at Solden

Only two stops in, the circus moved to the usual North American tour, and the racing days in Aspen (USA) and Lake Louise (CAN) would bring a familiar face back to the fold. Vonn, the four-time overall Champion, was back and all the rust she may have felt was gone on a pinch as she triumphed on the second Downhill (DH) event held on the Canadian resort, only a day after Maze beat Fenninger on the discipline’s first race of the year.
The third speed competition of the weekend, a Super G (SG), was snatched by Switzerland’s Lara Gut with Vonn and Maze coming right after, and the result prompted several observers to believe the American could challenge for the big globe. However, Vonn soon realized her form (and knee) wouldn’t hold an all-out challenge across multiple fronts and she smartly kept her focus on the speed races, a decision that would be proven absolutely right by the season’s end.
Back to Europe, Sweden’s Åre took over the technical festivities the lack of snow inhibited in Courchevel and, with 180 points (1st on the GS, 2nd on the Slalom (SL)) more on the pocket, Maze built an advantage of more than 250 points over the Austrian rival by mid-December, with Fenninger unable to get outside of the low-side of the top-ten classifications. Just before Christmas, although, the reigning Champion finished as the runner-up on the SG at Val D’Isére, and started a series of several 2nd places until the end of January that would bring her closer to the lead. Meanwhile, Maze was picking up precious points on slalom events during a part of the season dominated by the brilliance of Mikaela Shiffrin on the short skies, and the class of Vonn on the speed events, including her 63rd World Cup win at the SG of Cortina D’Ampezzo, beating the record of 62 WC wins set by Annemarie Moser-Proll.
The Americans seemed to be gaining steam ahead of the 2015 Vail/Beaver Creek World Championships, but the stars of the event on the women’s side were yet again the pair at the helm of the World Cup rankings.
Fenninger edged Maze for 0.03 seconds at the SG, the first event of the Championships, and this win would broke whatever was holding the Austrian back, even though two days later it was time for the 31-year-old to smile, defeating the rival for a mere 0.02 seconds on the DH. Maze would also take gold on the super combined, an event Fenninger finished in fourth, but the table was turned yet again on the GS, with a spectacular performance delivering the first World Championship title for the discipline’s World Cup title-holder.

The Austro-Slovenian domination extended to the World Championships in Vail

Shiffrin would save an otherwise pale American performance on the women’s side – Vonn only left with a bronze medal on the Super-G – by renewing the slalom title, but the three medals amassed by each side of the Fenninger-Maze rivalry would leave no doubts about the brightest smiles at the return of the Wold Cup.
With Fenninger 284 points out of the top spot, the season resumed in Maze’s background, at Maribor, and it was precisely where no one expected it that the tide changed dramatically. The home heroin crashed on the GS’ first run, straddling the gates for Fenninger’s win, and the next day Maze failed to finish the slalom also, leaving the weekend full of doubts while his rival got a serious moral boost that grew even more with wins at the GS and combined event of Bansko.
Maze would reduce the losses in the Bulgarian resort with two second place finishes, and managed to keep the distance on the following stop, Germany’s Garmish-Partenkirchen, but the return to Åre brought another success to Fenninger on the GS and a change in the leader of the pack after Maze ended back in 20th.

Lindsey Vonn clinched both speed titles at Méribel

Heading into the season finale at Méribel, Fenninger was still fighting for the discipline’s globes in the Downhill and Super-G, trailing Lindsay Vonn in both, but the American made everything to avoid influence on the overall dispute after claiming victory in both events and, by virtue, both classifications. Fenninger was second on the SG and only eight on the DH, while Maze managed a third and a fifth, setting the stage to reclaim the lead by 18 points after the slalom, which she ended up in fourth.
The title was going to be decided on the last race of the season, with the Austrian trying to add the GS globe also, and the pressure was immense on both women. Leading after the first run, Fenninger was on the starting line when his rival failed to beat fellow Austrian Eva-Maria Brem on the second run and fought the nerves to secure his advantage and celebrate after crossing the finish line.At the end, just 22 points separated Maze from Fenninger’s 1553, with the 25-year-old conquering the big crystal globe for the second time on one of the tightest battles on World Cup history.
Breaking down the season of both women, a closer look at the numbers reveals that the Austrian had more podiums (15 to 13) and wins (6 to Maze’s 3), an essential factor in the contest since Fenninger is essentially a three disciplines skier (DH, SG, GS) while the Slovenian also races de slalom. The Overall Champion defeated the rival on the classification of all the three shared disciplines, ending behind Vonn on the downhill and Super-G, with Maze coming up third on both, and claiming the GS title with 542 points, more than doubling the 266 collected by Maze on his historically most successful event. The cushion added on the head-to-head competitions allowed Fenninger to rush to victory despite the third place (439 points) on the slalom classification achieved by Maze.

After a gruelling duel, Fenninger toppled Maze

Finishing on the final podium position, with 1087 points, Lindsey Vonn not only surpassed the record for most World Cup wins, set now at 67, but also added two more small globes to his impressive collection, raising the total to 19 (4 OV, 7 DH, 5 SG, 3 C), a female record. Furthermore, she equalled Annemarie Moser-Proll with the most DH titles of all-time (7) and German Katja Seizing in total Super-G titles (5), while her 113 podiums are tied with Moser-Proll for most of all-time on the women’s side. The 30-year-old American raced mostly on the speed events in 2015, winning a season-best 8 races, but has already promised to participate on the GS next season and challenge for her fifth overall title.
Meanwhile, her compatriot Mikaela Shiffrin ended the season in fourth on the overall classification after threatening to step in the middle of the fray during the first half of the season. The 20-year-old Vail-native added his third consecutive slalom crystal globe and renewed her World Championship title, but didn’t stop there, continuing to make strides towards the goal of becoming a real contender for the overall title by improving her performance on the GS. In fact, Shiffrin was third on the Kuhtai GS to supplement her maiden win in the discipline at Solden, and those results allowed her to step in the final podium position at Méribel on the season’s end. Her goal in 2016 is to experience the first Super-G events.

Mikaela Shiffrin won the third consecutive slalom WC title

After the two Americans, who collected over 1000 points, the difference for the rest of the pack was clear, as Nicole Hosp, the 2007 World Cup overall winner, closed the top 5 with 684 points. The 31-year-old Austrian celebrated a World Cup triumph for the first time since 2008, on the slalom event of Aspen, and her best memory from the year was also attained on American soil, with Hosp taking silver at the super combined race of the World Championships.
Two other Austrian veterans, 28-year-old technical specialist Kathrin Zettel and speedster Elizabeth Goergl came in 7th and 8th, respectively, on the overall classification, while Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter was 6th after challenging Mikaela Shiffrin’s slalom reign until the last race. The 29-year-old skier collected five WC podium finishes on the year, including the top position at Flachau plus the silver medal in the event at the World Championships, but came out disappointed for failing yet again to breakthrough. With Shiffrin just getting better, her time may never arrive.

Lara Gut didn’t have a lot to celebrate in 2015

Rapping up the top 10 were two skiers who started the year with big expectations but never managed to stay consistent. For Lara Gut, the problem isn’t new and the uber-talented Swiss showed her frustration several times over the year as the bad results kept piling up. After conquering seven races in 2014, the jewel of the Italian-speaking region of Ticino took a step backwards in 2015 by managing just two wins, at Lake Louise (SG) and St. Moritz (DH), and no other podium finishes. Gut dropped six spots from the third place on the overall classification obtained in 2014 and never stood a chance of retaining the Super-G title claimed on the previous season, although the year was brightened a little bit by the bronze medal picked up at the World Championships’ DH race.
On the other hand, Tina Weirather, recovered from the leg injury that cut short a promising 2014 season, battled hard to regain his best form all year and the results took some time to surface. Her first podium finish on the season came in Lake Louise, at the beginning of December, and she added three more during the year, culminating on a well-deserved triumph on the DH of Garmish-Partenkirchen. If she can rack up a good summer of training, the native of the Liechtenstein is poised to turn into a dark-horse on the list of contenders for the overall title in 2016.
If the top 10 in the overall classification had no surprises, the dispute of the disciplines globes’ saw some young guns emerge out of the shadow. Austrian Eva-Maria Brem fought till the very last minute with compatriot Anna Fenninger for the GS crystal globe and at the age of 26 figures to be a contender for the discipline for years to come. The skier born on the Tyrol region won a single event, in Aspen, but added four more podiums and a fourth place to end all seven GS races on the top 10. However, she flopped badly at the World Championships, quickly missing a gate on the first run of the competition.

Sarah Hector (center) beat Fenninger and Shiffrin on the GS of Kuhtai

Two spots behind Brem on the GS classification placed Sarah Hector, a young skier from Sweden who turned some heads after a runner up finish in Åre on December 12th, and later confirmed her qualities with the win at the Kuhtai in Tirol event. The 22-year-old Sandvike native would end the season with a 4th place at the final GS in Méribel, and her improvement will be closely watched in 2015-16 after she outshined more regarded compatriots like Jessica Lindell-Vikarby and Maria Pietilae-Holmner.
Finally, some words for the new Austrian prospect on the speed events, 22-year-old Cornelia Huetter, who almost medalled at the Super-G on the World Championships and picked up seven other top ten finishes over the year, a total that would render a top 5 classification on the final discipline standings.
More ladies deserved the spotlight, but this tale it’s already too long, so let’s move on to the men

(see next post)