Part 2: Fun facts from 54 issues of Saslong Classic
Stories about triumphant victories and matching defeats. About tricks, daring jumps and rockets under the skis. About animals that have strayed onto the slopes. The list of anecdotes before the 55th Saslong Classic and the 100th World Cup race on the Saslong is long. So here is the second part of a small selection of ten fun facts to read, marvel at and smile about...
The sensational man from Liechtenstein
It is a kind of unwritten law: whoever leads in a downhill race after bib number 30 reaches the finish line can start giving winning interviews. That exceptions prove the rule applies on Friday, 17 December 1993. Exceptional skier Marc Girardelli achieves the best time with bib number 30 in 2:09.21 minutes. It would be the first triumph for the Luxembourg all-rounder on the Saslong. But the course is accelerating thanks to the sunshine in the upper part. The result: Werner Franz, who started in 52nd place, is 12/100 of a second faster than Girardelli. But it gets even thicker. Markus Foser, the cheerful Liechtensteiner, is again 0.19 seconds faster than Franz. It's sensational! And his record still holds: Until today, no one has won a World Cup race with as high a starting number as Markus Foser.
Rockets under the French slats
Was the snow particularly fast? Was the run more directly set? Did Antoine Deneriaz have phenomenal gliding skills? Did the Frenchman have perfect material? Or was it a mix of all of the above? On this Saturday, 20 December 2003, Deneriaz raced across Val Gardena/Gröden's local mountain as if clipped on rails. At the finish line in the Ruaccia stadium, the future Olympic downhill champion recorded the fastest time ever achieved on the Saslong: 1:52.99 minutes. And for the second time in a row, the Frenchman relegates Michael Walchhofer from Austria to second place in Val Gardena/Gröden, who will go on to celebrate a total of four victories at the South Tyrolean speed classic in subsequent years (two each in super-G and downhill).
Dancing with the deer
Armin Assinger, a skiing legend and experienced TV expert, can't believe it during the live ORF broadcast this Saturday, 18 December 2004: "Look, look, look, what's in there? There's a deer in there. A deer in the target schuss. Look." At his side, the no less stunned and as legendary reporter Robert Seeger: "It's running down here now across the target schuss." Moments later, Kristian Ghedina is at the Finish. But, unfortunately, he is not capturing his fifth victory on his favorite course, with which he would beat Franz Klammer's record and become the sole record holder. But the headlines still belong to the "Azzurro" after this close encounter with the local fauna. And the winner is Max Rauffer, who celebrates a German racer's first and only World Cup victory in the downhill.
A unified podium
Something like this has only happened once in the previous 54 editions of the Saslong Classic. On Friday, 18 December 2015, all athletes on the podium are from one nation. But it is not the Austrians, Swiss or Italians who will be passionately celebrated. Instead, the Norwegians Aksel Lund Svindal, Kjetil Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde sweep the lot in the super-G.
The perfect weekend
Just as the Saslong Classic took place on December 18 and 19 in the recent past, there is no way to the gold without considering the exceptional Norwegian skiers. 2015 is the year of Aksel Lund Svindal, who leaves everyone behind in super-G and downhill. Exactly five years later, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde thunders down the Val Gardena-Gröden speed course fastest in the two speed disciplines. Victories in super-G and downhill - but not in the same year - can be claimed by three other former ski stars at the South Tyrolean classic: Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen, Norway's Lasse Kjus and Austria's Michael Walchhofer.