Zagreb is a social town and its citizenry fair-minded and ski-race crazy. They cheer for every racer.
Little did they know, when the first skier took to the second course — the first run’s 30th finishing Mat-tias Hargin — they were cheering for a podium finisher.
Temperatures hovered at the freezing mark and on a softening surface Hargin blasted the unmarked
second course set a bit straighter and faster by Italian Jacques Theolier. Hargin was, as American
Ted Ligety put it, “stupid fast.”
While the Zagreb race hill Crveni Spust is tame by World Cup standards, it is far from easy and the
atmosphere of the large crowd chanting and cheering in the damp night air makes it as big a challenge as any. When a racer stands out as Hargin did on a Thursday night, it heightens the pressure
down the line. Ligety, racing 15th in the second run, was the first to even challenge Hargin’s two run
total time of 1: 53. 10. It was clear something unusual had happened.
Ligety produced his best slalom result in three seasons, gave the U.S. its best men’s result (sixth)
at Zagreb by 13 placings and was excited that his slalom set-up (equipment tuning) was working. He
knew he had put down a good run and was a bit miffed to see he still was second to Hargin at the time
he ran. “Hargin must have absolutely crushed it, because he was stupid fast,” said Ligety.
As it turned out Hargin’s second run was not enough to undo the two-second hole ( 1.98) he had dug
in the first run. It was no surprise that Kostelic wound up second. It’s happened enough at Zagreb
(three times now) that it is being referred to as “a jinx.”
But of all the superstar slalom skiers in position for a charge, the guy who came out on top was Har-
gin’s Swedish teammate Andre Myhrer. “The conditions were perfect for me and I felt very confident
and relaxed prior to the final run,” said Myhrer. “I managed to give everything I had in me.”
He has often performed best in softer conditions and, having been inspired by Hargin’s run, he knew
this was a good opportunity. It was just his second World Cup slalom win, and the first since 2006.
The timing and location made it all the sweeter. “This victory comes just at the right time at the start
of a month of January with five slaloms. ... To win this prestigious event means a lot to me. There is
no other place where you get a crown when you win.”
While Kostelic couldn’t enjoy the sweetest of tastes, he wasn’t overly disappointed placing second
for the third time.
“No other skier is under as much pressure
as I am,” said Kostelic.
“Austrians can afford
to crash out in their
big races. There are
nearly a dozen others to avenge them.
I’m on my own here.
... and it’s hard to remain fully focused in
the days prior to the
competition with all
those people who
want to get a small
piece from me. I’m
not disappointed but I
would love win it one
The U.S. got another
national quota spot
for future slaloms
when David Chod-nousky captured his first World Cup points in 20th. The 26-year-old former Dartmouth skier said the
results “was a huge relief,” and got a monkey off his back.
Coach Mike Day (incidentally, the course setter for the first run) said: “It was a huge breakthrough
for David. He had a couple of mistakes but plowed through them. He did a great job. We’re getting
another spot back for the nation and that is important because our guys are extremely fast. They just
haven’t had the opportunity to show it to the World Cup yet.”