Those were the 79th Hahnenkamm-Races
Flexible, fair, fantastic - A race week of superlatives
Left turn, right swing and tuck down to the finish line - the 79th Hahnenkamm Races consisted of exciting "passages" from the European Cup Downhill, International Junior Race, Hahnenkamm Downhill, Slalom and Super-G, as well as the Kitz Charity Trophy. They finished on Sunday with the Super-G. And one thing is clear: the Hahnenkamm Races have made a lasting impression all over again. Even weather-related programme changes, which demanded a great deal of flexibility from the organizers, skiers, supervisors, fans and media, could not harm the great atmosphere around this ski classic. It was an emotional, exciting race week, a ski festival that knows no equal.
Danklmaier Show and Swiss Jubilation in the European Cup
The Hahnenkamm Race Weekend was ushered in by the Europacup on Monday. The young athletes proved their fearlessness on the shortened Streif Downhill course, which started above the Mausefalle and ended at Oberhausberg.
25-year-old Austrian, Daniel Danklmaier, had already drawn attention to himself during the training runs. He then impressively demonstrated his top form during the race: securing top place on the podium with a best time of 1:21.19. "It wasn't easy to be relaxed about starting after achieving the two best times in training", said Danklmaier afterwards. "I just wanted to deliver a technically clean ride, I succeeded". Switzerland was also given reason to cheer - and that twofold: Nils Mani finished a close second, only 3 tenths of a second behind. Third place went to his compatriot Lars Rösti, just four tenths of a second behind.
Home win at the Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race
“Youth on Stage” was the motto of this year's Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race only two days later. The event was spectacular all over again this year: starting with a Giant Slalom contest and followed by a demanding Slalom, the young talents showcased their skills on the Ganslernhang Slope for the 14th time.
As in previous years, the young ski generation - consisting of 14- to 15-year-old talents - provided a spectacle that knows no equal in the international sector. Victory was secured by Team Austria 1, followed hot on the heels by Team Germany in second place. The "home team" from Tyrol was also able to join the podium in third place. This will not have been the last appearance in Kitzbühel for several of the participating skiers.
The atmosphere around the event was also noteworthy: the stars of tomorrow were celebrated like true professionals.
Great Jury Decision
While the Europacup and International Junior Race were going on, an eager eye was being kept on the weather forecasts for the second half of the Hahnenkamm Week: advice given by ZAMG Innsbruck under the direction of Manfred Bauer provided an accurate picture of the weather for the upcoming hours and days. "A warm front will come in on Saturday, which will prevent any Downhill race from happening," was the essential statement. After long discussions, the decision was finally made on Thursday at 15 hrs: The Hahnenkamm Race programme will be changed. To be precise, the Downhill was moved from Saturday to Friday, the Slalom from Sunday to Saturday and the Super-G from Friday to Sunday. No stone remained unturned.
These changes proved to be exactly the right decision by the Jury: on Friday already, after an exciting Downhill race under fair and safe conditions for the skiers, the Organizing Committee received reassurance about the correctness of their actions - the previous day’s decision was both appropriate and necessary. As predicted by ZAMG, it began to snow heavily on Saturday at 6 a.m. sharp. Despite the early start time of the first Slalom run, thousands of spectators streamed into the event area. Although heavy snowfall put the snow groomers to the test, it posed no problem for staging a fair event. It became clear that the weather-related changes in the jury's plans were unavoidable: While good conditions prevailed at the start area of the Streif on Friday, there was a huge storm the next day. Under these dangerous conditions, it would not have been possible to even contemplate starting the Downhill race from the very top; clearing the snow off the slope was also unfeasible.
As also correctly predicted by ZAMG, there was a swift weather improvement on Saturday afternoon, the feared rain on Hausberg was prevented by a rapid passage of the storm. Combined with lighter night cloud, Sunday’s Super G was given the 100% go-ahead. A positive conclusion can therefore be drawn in respect of the Jury decisions and changed race programme. Many thanks to the meteorologists from ZAMG, without whose predictions we could not have held the Hahnenkamm Races," said KSC CEO Michael Huber.
All good things come in threes: Dominik Paris celebrates third Downhill victory
After the Europacup and Junior Races ended, the world’s elite were finally allowed to enter the arena: after training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, weather conditions meant that the supreme Downhill discipline was scheduled for Friday.
Dominik Paris had already won the coveted golden “Gams” trophy in 2013 and 2017. It was now time for his third attempt. He delivered an unbeatable run with a time of 1:56.82. I didn't actually have a good feeling, but I thought to myself before the Downhill: "Just get on your skis and ski down," said the Italian. He narrowly beat Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who was only two tenths of a second behind and took second place. “It was a super run for me. Dominik was simply two tenths of a second faster, you have to accept that", Feuz was pleased despite narrowly missing victory. Austrian Otmar Striedinger surprised everyone with the high start number of 27. He was able to secure third place a mere 0.37 seconds behind the leader. After Beaver Creek 2013, Striedinger was delighted with the second podium finish of his career. "To be honest, I never dreamed this would happen," said the 27-year-old visibly moved.
Only one hundredth of a second behind fourth-placed Christof Innerhofer, the sensation of this year's Hahnenkamm Week was delivered by Daniel Danklmaier, achieving his best World Cup result thus far. He had already triumphed in the Europacup and demonstrated strong form in the two training runs. "The Europacup certainly helped. Conditions were not easy, but I just wanted to have a good ride today, so of course I am satisfied", said the Austrian.
A new slalom hero is born
The first run was scheduled for 9.30 hrs and the Organizing Committee was a little worried that no one would turn up to watch the Slalom so early. Fans filled the stadium up, however, by 8.30 hrs to cheer the Slalom stars on at the start of the race. The mood was once again extraordinary in the natural arena of the Ganslern Slope, where the racecourse was awash with the sound of cheering. Coaches, slope groomers, judges, all those on the track were overwhelmed by this incredible atmosphere. Even the athletes themselves say that fans get closer to you here than anywhere else.
Marcel Hirscher was well behind the Swiss leader, Ramon Zenhäusern after the first run. Clement Noel, the French team’s rookie who had already won in Wengen, was hot on Zenhäusern’s heels, followed by Alexis Pinturault, the triple HKR Combined winner, in third place.
Increasing numbers of spectators flocked to the Ganslernhang Slope in unparalleled levels of internationality. The crowd roared, the athletes were celebrated. The second run started at 12.30 hrs, tension was palpable. Overwhelmed by the atmosphere, Zenhäusern made mistakes and finished his run in 14th place, ultimately coming sixth when the race was over. Norway’s Kristoffersen was frustrated with his first run after which he ranked eleventh, but pulled out all the stops in the second run. Finally, slalom star Marcel Hirscher pushed hard, wanting to make up for his slip-ups in the first run, and clocked the fastest time in the race with 49.72 seconds. Austrian Marco Schwarz, a young, lively slalom rider, garnered an impressive fifth place. He represents great hope for the future of the Austrian team. The tension was palpable as youngster Clement Noel hit the start line. The 21 year-old Frenchman stuck to his line and skied to Slalom victory. "I've never seen anything like this before," said Clement Noel, “it is a dream to race in front of so many people.” A new Slalom hero is born! Rival Hirscher added, “that right now he skis the fastest turns and holds the tightest line.”
The evening award ceremony literally blew the top five away. "It is a privilege to experience such an award ceremony, this was unique, simply unparalleled," said Hirscher in a TV interview. The two Frenchmen, Clement Noel and Alexis Pinturault, were equally moved. After all, the evening award ceremony for the Slalom racers only happened because of the programme change.
Race Week was rounded off by a slightly different Hahnenkamm Sunday. During the afternoon Super G, Germany’s Josef Ferstl was the fastest racer - and achieved a sensational victory. You see, exactly 40 years ago, Josef Ferstl senior was awarded the traditional winners' gondola at the Hahnenkamm Cable Car. Ferstl junior has now secured his own “Gams” trophy and named gondola by delivering the fastest time of 1:13:07 and a narrow leading margin of 8 hundredths over Frenchman Johan Clarey. I placed all my bets on one card and it came off perfectly,” said the delighted 30-year-old. Clarey, on the other hand, was delighted with his first podium finish in the Super-G - the fact that he achieved this on the challenging Hahnenkamm racecourse makes it all the more remarkable. Third place went to the South Tyrolean “trophy hunter" Dominik Paris, who was able to travel home with two coveted trophies after the Race Weekend.
Strong performances, impressive prize-money
When the starting shot for the Hahnenkamm Races is fired, the battle for prize-money commences anew amongst the world’s best skiers. Especially in Kitzbühel, it is worthwhile for athletes to make a successful appearance: with a total purse of Euro 550,000, Kitzbühel was once again the venue that offers the highest prize money on the World Cup circuit.
Euro 200,000 is distributed amongst the winners of both the Downhill and Slalom races. As one would expect, the largest share is earmarked for the winners: Italian Dominik Paris secured Euro 74,000 for winning the Downhill race this year. Slalom winner Clément Noël was delighted to win the same amount on Saturday. Second placed athletes received Euro 37,000, third placed Euro 18,500. The remaining top 30 in Downhill and Slalom also received prize money - this year it still amounted to Euro 1,000 for 30th place.
The skiers received a little less, but still a handsome sum for the Super-G: this year's winner won not only a golden “Gams” trophy, but also Euro 55,500. Second place was worth Euro 27,750, third place Euro 13,875. The athlete ranked 30th in the Super-G not only received a World Cup point, but also Euro 750.
Numbers over numbers, which ultimately demonstrate: those who shine at the Hahnenkamm will be honoured accordingly.
There was a lot going on at the Hahnenkamm Races, even away from the World Cup events: KITZ Charity Trophy took place for the 22nd time in the Streif finish area after Saturday’s big race.
The charity event was launched in 1998 to help needy mountain farming families in South and North Tyrol. Since then, countless celebrities from the fields of sports, politics and economics have competed in this entertaining race for a good cause.
This year's KITZ Charity Trophy winning team was Team Leitner with Anton Seeber, Martin Leitner and Manuela Mölgg. Second place went to Team Mastercard 2 (Benjamin Raich, Catalin Munteanu and Caric Slavko), followed by Team Eyetime 1 with Krizaj Bojan, Perez Javier and Sadil Jan, who took third place. More important than the sporting result, however, was the financial one - and this was incredible all over again: Euro 160,000 - ten thousand Euros more than last year - was collected in donations. A great success for all involved and an important contribution to the support of mountain farming families in need.
Legends - on and off the racecourse
Similar to Kitz Charity Trophy, the Hahnenkamm Evening on Saturday has become a requisite part of the great Kitzbühel event. Every year, personalities from sport and politics come together at this event to celebrate former Hahnenkamm heroes.
During the 79th edition of the Hahnenkamm Races, a special focus was placed on three former ski stars: Karl Schranz, Sepp Ferstl and Christian Neureuther are regarded as true ski greats, who have shaped the Hahnenkamm Races in a very special way. Kitzbühel Ski Club's honorary committee has therefore decided to present the "Hahnenkamm - Legends of the year" award to the Trio in 2019.
Christian Neureuther, who was the Slalom winner on the Ganslernhang 40 years ago, was delighted with the award: "I have a lot in common with Kitzbühel; we went to Kitzbühel even when I was a young child and I was a huge Toni Sailer fan. What should I say about Kitzbühel and the Hahnenkamm Races? I am simply glad that they exist", said Neureuther. Sepp Ferstl, who only one day later and exactly forty years after his own Downhill triumph, presented his son Josef with the trophy for Slalom victory, was also delighted: “Even after ending my racing career, I haven't missed a single race in Kitzbühel. I'm always made very welcome here - I really appreciate that". Karl Schranz, third in the group, certainly remembered his 16 starts in Kitzbühel when receiving the award. He triumphed on the Streif six times and achieved no less than twelve podium finishes. The next - albeit somewhat different - award followed on Saturday: Schranz reminisced on a curious Hahnenkamm story while being presented with his trophy: his race timing was stopped incorrectly in 1969 and it was unclear as to whether he had won the race or not. After an agonising wait, his time was finally adjusted. Karl's casual comment on Saturday: “I didn’t care one bit about the prize, I just wanted my time to be right,” which was an entertaining moment, and one that reflected the cheerful atmosphere of the Hahnenkamm evening
A big thank you
Finally, a few words should also be addressed to those who make the Hahnenkamm Races the spectacle they are today: You, the fans. The Hahnenkamm Races would certainly not be such a major event with amazing atmosphere and sensational vibe without its loyal spectators. It is they that make the Hahnenkamm Races the biggest ski festival in Austria - in many ways. Whether dressed up, with painted faces, ringing bells, laughing, cheering or simply being demonstrative; every single fan contributes to the fact that the Hahnenkamm Races are the focus of attention for a whole week every year.
This year's ski classic confirmed again that the Hahnenkamm fans are truly the best. Despite short-term changes to the programme, our fans displayed stamina, flexibility and understanding, thereby giving the Organizers the necessary support to hold fair and safe competitions. They defied heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures to create a sensational atmosphere alongside the racecourse.
This year's spectator statistics were also impressive: after having 1,000 spectators at the Europacup on Monday, 500 fans turned up for the Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race, 3,000 visitors were at the first training run and 5,000 at the second, while 25,000 people watched the Hahnenkamm Downhill on Friday. With 39,000 spectators in attendance at the Ganslernhang Slope, a new record number of visitors was reached in Kitzbühel for the Slalom on Saturday. The Super-G also turned out to be a spectator magnet: an impressive 21,000 fans did not miss the end of the 79th Hahnenkamm Races and ensured a perfect end to a great sporting week, an unforgettable sports festival.
We would therefore like to say a big thank you all our fans! In a nutshell: you are just like the Hahnenkamm Races - legendary, unique - and it is you that make HKR Austria's greatest sports festival every year anew.