53rd Golden Fox 2017(07. 01. - 08. 01. 2017)
As soon as Tina took off her skis, three other Slovenian skiers made in into top 10. Twenty thousand spectators and equal conditions for all competitors! Ilka Štuhec ranked 10th in slalom, 14th in giant slalom and 5th in Pohorje Cup combination! This is a milestone not only for Slovenian alpine skiing, but also on a global scale. These are the highlights of 53rd Golden Fox, which became one of the most glorious races in the long history of this event.
Tessa Worley placed first in giant slalom and Mikaela Shiffrin won both, slalom and Pohorje cup combination. Slovenian skiers were excellent as well, even though no one made it to the podium this time. Ana Drev ranked 8th in giant slalom and Ana Bucik seventh in slalom. Ilka Štuhec, the fastest skier of the season in downhill and giant slalom, brought an enormous enthusiasm among 20.000 spectators and ranked 14th in giant slalom and 10th in slalom. At the same time, the biggest Slovenian champion Tina Maze was saying goodbye.
Victorious step across the finish line
The weather was on our side. Severe, long lasting cold and 58 snow cannons enabled Mitja Dragšić’s team to provide 80 cm thick layer of snow as early as in December, which was enough to continue with course preparation in January with no water infusion needed.
53rd Golden Fox provided one of the best racecourses not only in the world cup, but also in the long history of the event and organizers did their job excellently.
Ana Drev described an amazing racecourse and atmosphere: “Ladies said they haven’t seen Maribor like this yet. Fair conditions, the racecourse, weather and atmosphere...everything we can only wish for. I’m happy to be a part of this spectacle.”
Tina’s farewell moved us to tears. In front of 15.000 fans with bib number 34, at age 33 and after 18 years of career in the white circus (with her first performance right here, at the Golden Fox event on 2. January 1999 when she ranked 32nd in giant slalom). In 401 runs in the world cup Tina achieved 26 victories, 81 podium placements, 1 big Crystal Globe and 2 small Crystal Globes on top of 4 Olympic medals (of which 2 are golden) and 9 medals from world championships events with 4 being golden. This was her 16th performance at Golden fox event and she had won on 3 events. Tina started her performance like she wants to win for the very last time, but she stopped halfway at her coach and partner Andrea Massi, hugged him and continued skiing towards the finish line. Right before crossing the red line she took off her skies and walked through the finish line victoriously with skis in her hands. During loud home crowd cheers, Slovenian president Borut Pahor and Premier Miro Cerar payed their tribute to Tina Maze. After her last performance, Tina presented her memoirs “Jaz.Tina.”, a diary she had been keeping for past 18 years with Vito Divac, a reporter who accompanied her as a reporter all those years. “Tina is a champion and champions are always a bit devilish” commented Andrea Massi as Tina simply stated she is happy with achievements.
Champion Ilka Štuhec
Ilka Štuhec, regarding whom newspaper Večer reported that “after Katja Koren we got a champion who can see her home from the start gates” arrived to Maribor as a winner of 4 world cup races and was holding 3rd overall place. After Maribor’s event, she won another three world cup races and ranked second in the overall, right after Mikaela Shiffrin. In St. Moritz she won the downhill race. No wonder she was literally flying on her home racecourse! This was only eight performance in world cup slalom events for a former junior world cup champion in slalom and she took 10th place. “When it flies, it flies. Good runs and results in fast disciplines give me more self-confidence in slalom”.
Profits to support younger generations of Branik
Organizers upgraded the prize money funds for 10 %. From 221.000 EUR of total prize money fund Mikaela Shiffrin took home 48.195 EUR, Ilka Štuhec 2900 EUR, Ana Bucik 2750 EUR and Ana Drev 2200 EUR. Home club ASK Branik was left with 65.000 EUR of funds for continuing activities and supporting younger generations of skiers.
Patrick Lang, son of World Cup founder Serge Lang, complimented the organizers and provided some advice especially in terms of increasing promotions and attracting more visitors. “More people and sponsors should be attracted to the Golden Fox event so it can be recognized as a business opportunity where guests are well taken care of”.
Stormy times due to bankruptcy of Športni center Pohorje and later followed by bankruptcy of SK Branik kept arising many questions regarding future of ASK Branik. “We have gone through troubles and achieved a state which is better than it was in previous years,” answered General Secretary Srečko Vilar.
Reporters and the rest of us who keep questioning ourselves every season if “The Fox” is going to happen are more curious about fate of the event from FIS’ point of view. Golden Fox event is confirmed in FIS calendar up to year 2021. Until then a contract deal regarding TV rights and marketing with Infront remains valid. It provides 70% of the race budget, which means around 1 million EUR. Srečko Vilar about the remaining 30%: “ We cover that with sponsorship deals, but these funds are unfortunately decreasing every year. However, we are happy to be a part of a strong economy link in Maribor. Local sponsors, who also take an important role on a national level, provide us with long-term sponsorship deals. Unfortunately we don’t have much support from other parts of Slovenia”.
Regarding cooperation with FIS and continuation of world cup races in Maribor after 2021 Srečko Vilar remains optimistic: “Golden Fox is a member of Club 5, which brings together world best and most magnificent skiing events around the world. FIS values us as experienced and capable organizers who proved themselves on many levels during past 52 years. Our advantage is a finish line at 330 m a.s.l., which makes our venue easily accessible to visitors. We are on a borderline between a city and mountain race. I believe FIS will determine some changes in world cup races and we are ready to participate in any dialogue. If the changes will indicate a turn to more special and show races, parallel or city races, we can adapt. Besides, full spectators’ tribunes prove to be are another positive argument for keeping the only Slovenian race in female world cup series. We remain in the top half among highest attended races.”