54th Golden Fox(06. 01. - 07. 01. 2018)
There is only one winner, yet many feel victorious. Mikaela Shiffrin confidently took it all with great lead, yesterday's GS and today's world cup slalom, earning herself the golden and diamond fox for Pohorje Cup.
Maribor organizing team won the challenge of organizing this race. Atle Skaardal awarded the team with top grade for making the right decision of moving to Kranjska Gora, which was carried out perfectly. Majority of racers gave many compliments regarding the racecourse preparation as well. The race was organized by Golden Fox Organizing Committee which has over 50 years of experience and counts more than 200 team members of ASK Branik today. Entire organizing team moved to Gorenjska for 4 days where they joined forces with Pokal Vitranc’s Organizing Committee. The race stayed in Slovenia and attracted many visitors to Bled, Kranjska Gora and Podkoren.
This was seventh venue change for Golden Fox race from Maribor to Kranjska Gora. The race had to be moved once to Austria in Badgastein (1975) and later in 1976 to Olympic Jahorina, both times venue change proved to be successful.
Swiss Wendy Holdener took a chance after the slalom race press conference to say thank you to the organizers: “We enjoy racing in Slovenia and we know if the race can’t be organized in Maribor, the organizers will surely move it to Kranjska Gora”.
Slovenian skiers took away less than expected - Tina Robnik, the best among Slovenians placed 7th in giant slalom. Despite all, Slovenians proved they are a strong team with Meta Horvat, Ana Drev and Maruša Ferk winning some world cup points.
Ilka Štuhec, injured at the time, was a loud fan and strong supporter of Slovenian team with the help of almost 8000 cheering fans.
One, yet powerful sentence on front page of mainstream Slovenian journal on following Monday, said it all:
“Organizers of 54th Golden Fox joined forces with Kranjska Gora Organizing team and created an amazing weekend on a reserve racecourse in Podkoren, Kranjska Gora where Michaela Shiffrin absolutely reigned the race”. There may be only one crowned Golden Fox winner, but it felt like everyone involved in this spectacle won.
Seventh move to Gorenjska
While 54th Golden Fox in Kranjska Gora was soaking in rain, Maribor was basking in the sun for an entire week. If we think back, even if there would be enough of snow in the finish area during snow control, it would be completely gone by the race day. This means changing the venue to Kranjska Gora was a right decision to make.
Despite this, the beginnings of the season on Pohorje were promising. There was snowfall in November and snow cannons were placed along the racecourse in December. However, the temperatures were too high especially in lower part of the slopes.
Skiing season had opened just before Christmas holidays and there was more than enough snow in the upper slopes. Chief of Race. Mitja Dragšič still had hopes at the time: “ I hope Santa brings us cold temperatures or at least inversion so we can create a sufficient snow layer in the lower part”. But there was no cold in November nor December on Pohorje. Before the race, on 28. December , Austrian FIS snow controller Hans Grogl checked the entire racecourse and from snowless finish area he made a statement: “ Safety has to come first, especially in the Olympic season. In upper part, up to start gates there is enough of snow and for this I should complement the organizers who did a great job. But lower part of the racecourse area covered with snow is just not wide enough. World cup race cannot be carried out on such a racecourse. I will inform Atle Skaardal and he will make a decision together with the organizer which will be the following steps”.
Srečko Vilar, General Secretary of 54th Golden Fox Organizing Committee: “We will suggest to Skaardal to move the race to Kranjska Gora, where there is a sufficient amount of snow. The move will increase total costs of the event, but losing the race would cause even more damage”.
Atle Skaardal gave a green light to move the race from Maribor to Kranjska Gora during slalom event in Lienz. Srečko Vilar: “Kranjska Gora is also officially a reserve venue for Golden Fox race, therefore we expected the FIS’ decision. Moreover, we have previous experience with having to change the venue so things should be easier for us. FIS needs both races before the Olympics due to qualifications of competitors within teams. We will carry out the race together with our friends in Kranjska Gora. There is enough of snow in Podkoren, the racecourse is halfway ready. A bigger challenge remains availability of accommodation capacities in Bled. We will do everting we can to create a great race in Kranjska Gora with a positive financial outcome.”
This meant mobilizing the entire team. Andrej Rečnik, Chief of Racecourse took his entire team to the new venue in Podkoren. Roman Domjan, Chief of side slipping team was leading 82 side slipping workers throughout the event. The entire staff, personnel and equipment needed for preparation of the race, from racecourse teams to TV cameras, were moved in just three days.
Skiers were accommodated in Bled, while organizers were placed in Kranjska Gora.
Srečko Vilar: “Other organizers would give up in such circumstances, but we did not. This is not the first and probably not the last time such a situation occurred, at least until the snowmaking systems improves in Maribor.”
Mikaela Shiffrin shows no mercy
Mikaela Shiffrin wants it all in first giant slalom run. She skied flawlessly on an excellently prepared racecourse in Podkoren, beating second ranked Tessa Worley, winner of Maribor 2017 giant slalom race for 0,86s and third ranked Brunner (AUT) for 1,30 s. Tina Robnik, best Slovenian missed the podium ranking for 0,38s. Ana Drev and Meta Hrovat qualified for the finals.
During first giant slalom run there were a few rain drops and rain continued throughout the second run. Despite a fair advantage the French Tessa Worely attached the racecourse and a slight mistake right before entering the finish area prevented her from winning the Golden Fox again. A crowd of 4000 fans created a festive atmosphere at the venue. Among Slovenian racers, Tina Robnik with 7th place reached her best career result and young racer Meta Horvat also performed well.
The very next day, Michaela Shiffrin proved again in slalom event she is going to the Olympics as a champion. She swept away all competitors during her first giant slalom run and gained even more advantage in the slalom. Frida Hansdotter and Wendy Holdener were only two racers who managed to catch up with Michaela in less than 2 seconds and only another 6 racers managed to approach her result with not more than 3 seconds of staying behind. Among Slovenians Klara Livk with bib 50 managed to achieve this, while Maruša Ferk also succeeded to enter the finals runs.
On second course Austrian Bernadette Schild made the biggest progress and let’s not forget she placed 3rd in Podkoren back in 2014. Even though top three racers from the first run attacked the racecourse, the American was skiing in a class of her own and swept away other racers.
Maruša Ferk won some points as the only Slovenian with a bitter aftertaste since the points were won merely on Klara Livk’s fall.
Organizers had to give up the initial accompanying events’ programme planned for Maribor, but nevertheless visitors were entertained well. Performers Saška Lendero and Frajkinclarji created a party atmosphere at Podkoren’s finish area during the weekend.
Looking forward to the future
Atle Skaardal, World Cup Director at FIS for ladies’ events:
“Organizers did a great job despite the difficult circumstances. We shouldn’t forget we had only a few days left to prepare the racecourse. In the future we need to have discussion with the organizer regarding snowmaking in Maribor. We need to think over what can be done by which costs and make right decisions. We need to find answers to these open questions”.
Srečko Vilar: “ This time we had the race in Kranjska Gora mostly because we had to keep the race in Slovenia, so we don’t get a black mark from FIS, but a checkmark. To prove ourselves as organizers who are capable of changing a venue, moving the race to another location and establish a connection with the local organizers. My late friend from Kitzbuehl, Hanness Hutter, said there are only a few organizing committees in the world capable of establishing such a fast connection with local organization and arranging all means necessary to finish the project. The fact is there would be no Golden Fox if we would not move the race to Kranjska Gora”.
Reporters were worried about the future of Golden Fox race since this was in total seventh time the organizer had to change the venue to Gorenjska region. General Secretary of the Organizing Committee responded to these doubts: “For sure each cancellation of the race at home venue is not good. We had a successful race at the reserve venue also thanking to success of our racers. FIS did compliment us for moving the race in such a record time and based on this I think this venue change will not have a negative impact on creating the race calendar after 2021.”