Veteran Mario Matt had to first fight his way back onto the veteran-heavy Austrian team before he could make an assault in slalom. At Worlds he placed fourth, indi- cating to himself he was back to the form that brought him the world slalom titles in 2001 and 2007. He won at Bansko and at Kranjska Gora. He’s too far back to make a run at the title with just Finals left, but there is no one out there who would want o go head-to-head with Matt right now for slalom laurels. “It is a very important and very emotional moment,” Matt told reporters after Kran- jska Gora’s race. “The breakthrough really came in January. I really felt I was finally getting ready. I was not missing a lot. So when you are in the right state of mind, your body is responding and you have the right equipment; it makes things easier.” The story of the winner of the Kranjska Gora GS is perhaps among the most in- triguing in World Cup history. Carlo Janka, last season’s World Cup overall cham- pion and winner of virtually every post-season award possible, has had a diffi- cult season, exasperated by his health. He left the World Championships partway through the event and, we learned March 1, had heart surgery Feb. 23. According to the official statement, an “intervention was done interrupting unnecessary acces- sory pathways to the heart,” which had caused his heart rate to behave abnormally during exercise and stress. He got his first win of the season 10 days after the pro- cedure. “I am happy that my health is better,” said Janka. “That is the most important thing at the moment. It feels good to be back at the top.” Throughout this feast of unanticipated glory, the World Cup leaders were in difficult straits. Didier Cuche and Aksel Lund Svindal had abandoned hope of catching Ivica Kostelic for the overall crown, Cuche undergoing thumb surgery to correct an injury sustained at Worlds. Svindal skipped Bansko and got a 22nd place in the Kranjska Gora GS. But Kostelic wasn’t doing himself any favors, either. He had left the World Cham- pionships to get some rest for a weary and beat-up body. Getting back up to speed seems to be difficult. With the combined title already in his pocket before Bulgaria, he cruised to a fifth- place finish. But in both slaloms he gave up way too much, failing to finish the first run in Bansko and becoming a second-heat DSQ in Kranjska Gora, missing a gate at the tail end of the course. He had a decent first run in the GS, but hooked his arm on a gate and appeared to be favoring it between runs. A cautious second run placed him 18th. Though he still gained ground on his nearest competitors for the overall title, Kostelic will now have to fight for the slalom crown, his lead over Jean-Baptiste Grange — the third place finisher at Bansko — having shrunk to 36 points.
Old precision and new equipment
for the reborn Mario Matt.
Carlo Janka had heart surgery, and then
went and won his first race of the season.
Bansko Kranjska Gora
SkiRacing.com MARCH 17, 2011 | 19