Sunday's races marked the first official results of the 2023 Winter Games NZ, with the first of two FIS Australian New Zealand Cup (ANC) Giant Slalom podiums awarded at New Zealand’s home of alpine ski racing, Coronet Peak.
Contested over two runs with the combined times determining the final placings, the Giant Slalom is a technical event which requires strength and precision. Today’s course was set on The Hurdle, with its steep, rolling terrain making for a fast and challenging course.
The field was exceptionally strong today, with world cup athletes and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympians donning the pink Winter Games NZ bib. There were 24 nations represented and over 130 athletes on the start list.
The women’s podium was particularly impressive, with three Beijing 2022 Winter Olympians sweeping the podium, with just three tenths of a second separating the top three women.
A J Hurt of the USA took the top spot, with local ski racing superstar Alice Robinson (Queenstown, NZ) finishing just +0.05 seconds behind Hurt, following a hotly contested second run. Hurt’s compatriot Nina O’Brien rounded out the podium in third.
Hurt said; “There wasn’t much breathing room between me and Alice, she is one of the best in the world so just to be anywhere near her is an honour, I love skiing with her – it was a close race.”
Talking with Robinson after the event she said, “I felt solid today, I had two decent runs. There is definitely some room for improvement, but this is a great pre-season race for me, and it was good to get out there. It’s awesome having the world cup athletes here at home, it’s a really strong field and it’s good to go through the motions and push myself on the racecourse to get ready for the upcoming world cup season.”
The men’s podium was a nail-biter right to the end - going into run two there was less than one second separating the fastest seven athletes. They fought hard, with Christian Borgnaes of Denmark coming out on top.
Borgnaes said, “It feels amazing, I finished last season with a win and now I am starting this season with a win, so what more could I ask for! The course was fairly difficult today, we race all over Europe and this slope competes with the hardest slopes over there, especially the top pitch. It was a pleasure to ski here on a blue bird day at Coronet Peak.”
Louis Muhlen-Schulte of Australia finished in second place, with Adam Zampa of Slovakia finishing in third place.
Willis Feasey, was the top performing Kiwi male today, claiming a respectable 12th place in the strong men’s field. Feasey came into today’s race feeling confident after claiming the 2023 New Zealand Giant Slalom title on the very same course last weekend.
Feasey said; “My race wasn’t too bad; I was a wee bit slow in my second run, but I am happy, It’s a fun course here on The Hurdle. The quality of the field is high and there are some fantastic skiers here, I am looking forward to racing again tomorrow.”
Winter Games NZ is the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest snow sports event, in 2023 featuring 11 events across alpine, freeride and park and pipe disciplines between the 25th August and 13th September. Racing continues tomorrow at Coronet Peak with a second Giant Slalom race.