Kathrin Hoelzl handed Germany a massive boost ahead of next year’s Winter Olympics and the 2011 edition of the World Ski Championships in Garmish, Germany, with a shock win in the women’s giant slalom on Thursday.
The 24-year-old German, who was in fourth position after the first run, recorded the sixth-fastest second run to clock a combined 2 minutes, 03.49 seconds as a host of rivals made crucial errors on the demanding Bellevarde piste.
It was Germany’s first world ski title since Martina Ertl won the super combined in St Anton, Austria, in 2001, and the first major tournament podium since Ertl’s bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, also in the combined.
“It’s a great achievement,” Hoelzl said. “I’ll be defending champion during the next championships in 2011 in Garmisch in front of my home fans. It’s very exciting. It’s an important result for me and the whole German team. It’s been years coming, we’re all under pressure and we’ve all been fighting for a medal, so everyone’s very happy.”
Hoelzl, who has just two World Cup podium finishes to her name, said that she had nothing to lose after the first run.
“I had no other choice. It was a very tough course. The ruts and bumps made it very tricky,” he said. “But I knew I had to charge. I knew I had a chance for a medal.”
Tina Maze of Slovenia finished in second place 0.09 seconds adrift of Hoelzl, also to hand her country her first medal of this championships and a first since 2001.
Maze, who went independent last May with two coaches, had a disastrous first run that saw her finish 15th, more than 2 seconds off the pace.
She explained that she had forgotten to take a second pair of goggles to the start gate.
“I will now forget what happened in that first run,” she said. “My goggles misted up during my warm-up and when I set off, they iced up inside and I couldn’t see anything from about the middle of the course down.”
“But when you’re still in, you realize that the race is not over until the two runs are completed,” she said. “It was really important I skied well on the second run. I did that and found myself on the podium, which was my goal.”
Indeed, Maze was one of only three people to dip under 1:03 on the second run, finishing 0.72 seconds clear of her closet rival.
“I was angry and disappointed after the first run. Maybe I should get someone to get me angry every time so I can ski like that again,” she said. “You have to be very aggressive from top to bottom. It’s very long with lots of hard turns.”
It was Slovakia’s first world championship medal since the 2001 edition in St Anton, when Mitja Kunc won bronze in the men’s slalom.
“We are neighbors, so I feel very lucky to be next after him,” she said.
Tanja Poutiainen of Finland added a world bronze to her Olympic and 2005 world silver medals in the discipline, 0.54 seconds shy of Hoelzl.
“At the end of the day, my goal was gold but it was a tough race and medals were hard to come by. On that second run, you could lose seconds,” said the Finn, who also won a silver in the slalom in 2005.
“The weather made it very tricky ... I had a good first run, but on the second I made a mistake before halfway and then lost my rhythm and had to fight all the way down,” she said.