Špindlerův Mlýn ready for another great event

The winner’s list of the Alpine World Cup events organized at Spindleruv Mlyn in the past fifteen years is pretty impressive – and gives great credibility to the all those competitions hold on the Black Course Svaty Petr which also hosted nearly hundred FIS and Europa Cup races since 1995.

From Croatia’s Janica Kostelic and Anja Paerson in 2005 to Austrian Marlies Schild in 2011, some of the World’s best specialists in the technical events competed and won races at Spindleruv Mlyn – or finished on the winners’ podium, including USA’s superstar Lindsey Vonn. The downhill ace reached her first GS podium in March 2011 in the competition dominated by Germany’s Olympic Champion Viktoria Rebensburg.

Considered as ‘Czech Aspen’ by its numerous visitors from Prague, this popular touristic site located north of Bohemia, at Poland’s south border, is probably one of the best known ski and vacation resorts in Czech Republic. Located in the Krkonoše Range (Giant Mountains) at an elevation of approx. 700 m. Spindleruv Mlyn’s highest part culminates at only 1,300 m yet it offers pleasant summer and winter sports activities.

Local inhabitants are also proud that the Elbe River is surging nearby their small town – on Mt. Vysoke Kolo at 1,386 m – and that the region already attracted tourists and famous visitors at the end of the 19th Century. Among them Franz Kafka, who started to write one of his famous works, the Castle, while resting there in January and February 1922.

With is 25 km of ski runs mostly equipped with snowmaking facilities and its 16 lifts offering a capacity of twenty thousand people per hour, Spindleruv Mlyn attracts a large amount of tourists during holidays and the weekends.  Nevertheless, important improvements in the entire ski area are planned by one of his recent investors, Tatry Mountain Resort, the company that also successfully manages Jasna, in Slovakia, the resort of Petra Vlhova, the current giant slalom World Champion.

Great crowds are expected

Skiing has a strong tradition in that region that also hosted a Nordic World Championships in 2009 at nearby Liberec so it’s expected that the two days of world class competitions will attract huge crowds this week as it has been the case a few years ago when former slalom World Champion Strachova (born Zahrobska) was still racing.

There are many good reasons for spectators to attend the giant slalom on Friday and the slalom on Saturday as those specialties offered very exciting battles between the two great dominators of the present season, America’s Mikaela Shiffrin and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova.

Their fierce and exciting duals have strongly enriched the scene on the women’s World Cup tour this season as they have been dominating the technical races in recent years. In fact, since January 2017and the night race at Flachau, in Austria, they won ALL the slaloms on the World Cup tour and at medal events – a total of 21 competitions, without the six parallel races they also shared!

With her 37 slalom wins, Shiffrin has set an impressive record in the specialty at Maribor, early February.  She is now chasing another record this weekend at Spindleruv Mlyn with a possible 15th victory during the same season. Two weeks ago, she tied the record of 14 World Cup wins in a winter set thirty years ago by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider, also a multiple overall World Cup champions and gold medalist at Olympics and FIS Worlds in the 1980s and 1990s.

Win her latest triumph in a City Event at Stockholm, Mikaela already secured her sixth slalom crystal globe – and she can’t lose the overall title after the cancellation of the recent speed races planned at Sochi, in Russia. She is traveling with a strong lead in the giant slalom standings to Czech Republic – 81 points on France’s Tessa Worley and 137 on Petra Vlhova. By the way, the champion from Vail Valley also leads the Super-G standings before the upcoming Finals in Andorra next week after winning all the three super-G races she entered this winter!!!

Mikaela Shiffrin ready for more at Spindleruv Mlyn

Clinching the crystal globe in giant slalom has been her main goal for several seasons now and finally she has a good chance now to reach it a year after capturing Olympic GS gold in Korea. It would certainly be special for her to achieve that performance in Spindleruv Mlyn where she returned with great emotion last week when she tested the slope during a few training runs. Eight years ago, Mikaela, who turns 24 in a week on March 13th, took part in her first World Cup race there after grabbing a well deserved bronze medal at the junior Worlds at Crans-Montana. She didn’t qualify for the second runs in both competitions but she greatly enjoyed being finally part of the circuit and meeting the stars she admired so much – especially her role model, Austria’s Marlies Schild! She still perfectly remembers those special moments.

This year Shiffrin returns as the undisputed leader on the women’s alpine tour with her 57 wins celebrated in all specialties including in the parallel format since December 2012. Last November, she closed sort of a gap with her maiden victory in Super-G at Lake Louise, only a year after her first victory there in downhill. To excel in all alpine disciplines has always been Mikaela’s main target and she may probably soon aim for the downhill globe in the coming seasons. With her four consecutive FIS gold medal in slalom since 2013 she’s already part of ski racing history!

At Are, where he took part to a Ski Legends Race, Sweden’s superstar Ingemar Stenmark said that he expected both Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher – in case the Austrian wishes to keep on racing – to beat his own record of 86 victories amassed between December 1974 and March 1989. Lindsey Vonn arrived until 82 – pretty close to that impressive mark. Future will tell if Ingemar was right!

Many rivals ready to fight hard

Well rested since her recent win at Stockholm, Mikaela Shiffrin will certainly face a strong opposition from her toughest rivals in Spindleruv, especially from Petra Vlhova who proved her strong form last week with her two Europa Cup victories in Jasna. Thousands of fans from Slovakia will come to strongly encourage her as it has been often been the case this season. Interestingly enough, Petra too has not competed at Spindleruv Mlyn since 2011, when she raced there in occasion of the Czech National Championships. She was only 15 – and was not yet a top contender at the FIS Junior World Championships at Crans-Montana where she finished a distant 30th in slalom. She had to wait 2014 to grab gold in that event – at home in Jasna!

France’s Tessa Worley, the 2017 World Cup champion and a two-time FIS World Champion, Viktoria Rebensburg still very competitive in giant slalom, Italy’s Federica Brignone, the recent winner in combined at Crans-Montana or Norway’s darling Ragnhild Mowinckel are some of the other main favorites in giant slalom.

In slalom it would be surprising to see victory choosing another racer than Shiffrin or Vhlova – but who knows?  There is a group of Swedish specialists lead by Frida Hansdotter and Anna Swenn-Larsson who remain also very motivated, as well as Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, the two-time combined World Champion still seeking for her maiden win in slalom. So far the Swiss got more than twenty podiums in slalom – but she is still fighting for her first triumph in the discipline.