WHEN PERSISTENCY PAYS OFF: THE STORIES BEHIND THE WINNER'S SMILE
21 victories, 58 podiums out of 74 races by 13 different athletes, and 4 crystal globes, including an Overall World Cup - the 2021/22 Alpine World Cup season was packed with successes and records. Behind these impressive numbers, however, you can find even more impressive stories.
The start of the World Cup season at the end of October in Sölden was promising: Mikaela Shiffrin celebrated her 70th World Cup victory and thus the first official success on a model from the latest ski generation, the Atomic Redster G9 Revoshock S. A relief, on the one hand, that material and athlete would once again form a perfect unit. On the other hand, a message to her competitors that Mika would again be the benchmark this season. Mika's victory was followed by 13 incredible podiums across all four disciplines throughout the season and crowned by a close battle, but eventual triumph, in the overall World Cup for her fourth Globe following 2017, 2018, and 2019.
"Mika was once again impressive, even though she definitely did not have an easy season due to her Corona break and the difficult time at the Olympics", Global Race Manager Christian Höflehner took stock of the season and his imaginary hat off.
One victory, in particular, stands out: On January 11, Shiffrin won her 47th World Cup slalom, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark's record for the most victories in one discipline.
"It's been some high moments this season, and it's been some really difficult moments as well," Shiffrin commented. "Ending it on a high and finding some really nice moments on the last races, that's really important and very special."
As it characterizes a true champion, she came out of the difficult moments even stronger and exactly at the time when it counted most. At the finals in Courchevel, she showed that you always have to count on her in the fast disciplines, winning her first downhill in over two years taking decisive steps towards winning the overall World Cup
Kilde: From rehab to speed king
An important companion of Mika skied from success to success almost in step with her: Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The 9th place in his first race following his blown knee was an achievement that cannot be underestimated. But a week later, he sent a powerful message by winning the Beaver Creek Super G. The rest of Aleks season can be summed up in one word: consistent. The Norwegian finished every single speed race in the top 10; winning the Downhill and Super G globes was the logical, albeit a hard-fought result due to the high level in the World Cup. He also fulfilled a lifelong dream at the Olympic Games with bronze in Super G and silver in Alpine Combined.
"Aleks' season was simply indescribable. But, above all, the giant slalom at the finals definitely makes you want more," Höflehner is already looking forward to the coming season. The Norwegian plans to start in selected giant slaloms again.
Redster dominance in the speed disciplines with one dominator
Sofia Goggia's performances on and off the piste were no less impressive: 1st - 1st - 1st - 2nd - 6th - 1st - 1st - 19th- 1st, were the Italian's ranks in the speed disciplines until her fatal crash at her home race on January 23 in Cortina D'Ampezzo. A partial tear in the cruciate ligament, a minor fracture in the fibula, and a sprained knee joint made it more than doubtful that she would compete at the Olympic Games in Beijing. But anyone who knows the fighter nature of Bergamo knows that surrender is not an option for her. The rest is history: Two weeks after the crash, Goggia skied to Olympic silver with the bravest line of all racers, writing the comeback story of the season. The crowning glory: the winner of the downhill crystal globe.
Twice this season, the Atomic racers managed to occupy the entire podium, namely in the downhill races from Lake Louise and Val d'Isere through Sofia Goggia, Breezy Johnson, and Mirjam Puchner.
World record man Braathen and a consistent Feller
Two Athletes showed that one has to count on them in every race in the technical disciplines: Manuel Feller and Lucas Braathen. The latter skied in the Wengen slalom from 29th place after the first run to a brilliant victory – no skier ever before him had managed such a giant leap forward in the history of the World Cup. In addition, the 21-year-old was in the running for the slalom globe until the very end – not bad for a comeback season.
Manuel Feller was particularly convincing this winter with consistent performances - "and that in both disciplines and in a way that he was competing for the globe until the last race," Christian Höflehner added. Even if there was no win in the end, the Tyrolean was able to celebrate seven podium finishes as well as second place in the Slalom World Cup and third place in the Giant Slalom World Cup. His wild ride in the second round in Schladming was legendary, where he skied up from 28th place in the first run to third place, literally straight from Corona quarantine.
Hählen, Hintermann and Co. on the way to the top
Not to forget the many personal successes of some Redster athletes such as Mirjam Puchner, who showed real consistency this season by finishing three times on the podium, and ended the Downhill World Cup with a strong 5th place, and crowned the season with the silver medal in the Olympic Super G; Niels Hintermann, who celebrated his first victory in a World Cup downhill race in Kvitfjell, and finished on the podium four times; Joana Hählen, who achieved her best World Cup result with a 2nd place in the downhill in Courchevel and her first podium finish since 3rd place in the Super G in Rosa Khutor in February 2020; Blaise Giezendanner who amazed the whole World Cup team with his 3rd place in the Hahnenkamm downhill; Nadia Delago, who became a bronze medalist in the Olympic downhill race; Ali Nullmeyer, who was able to race top-10 in the World Cup for the first time in the slalom in Zagreb, and achieved her best career result with a 5th place at the night race in Schladming, and Jeff Read, who finished for the first time of his career in the top 10 and became 7th in Kvitfjell.
The Polish Maryna Gasienica-Daniel and the Canadian slalom women also provided respectable performances in the technical competitions.
The strong performances that each athlete has achieved for themselves speak not only of their drive in the Redster Team but also the strong team spirit, which is reflected in one anecdote in particular. Two days after winning Silver in the Olympic Downhill from Beijing, Sofia Goggia lent her Redster colleague Mikaela Shiffrin her downhill skis for the Alpine combination. But that's not all: To support and encourage Mika, who was unlucky at the games, Sofia stuck a small piece of paper - actually a piece of tape - on the ski with the words "FLY MIKA, YOU CAN." A gesture that defines real champions and shows that team spirit in the Redster team is not just a word.
"You have to mention the whole team here. We're not talking about jobs that are done but about a real passion. What each individual invests and how everyone gives everything and lives for it, that's really impressive," said Höflehner, proud of his Redster team.