By PHILIP CHANDLER
Queenstown skiing star Alice Robinson starts her World Cup campaign this Saturday night at the scene of her greatest triumph.
She’s at Solden, Austria, where a year ago, at just 17, she shocked the skiing world by claiming her first World Cup title, beating reigning giant slalom (GS) world champion Mikaela Shriffin by 0.06 seconds.
After another World Cup win in her final race, at Kranjska Gora in Slovenia, in February — Covid claimed the last three scheduled races — she’s now joint women’s world no.1 in GS.
Her Kiwi co-coach Chris Knight says ‘‘we spent a weekend in [Italian ski resort] Val Senales on a slope that had been injected with water to turn it to ice, and Alice skied very well’’.
‘‘To even get on that slope required some phone calls to Italian and Austrian
alpine directors, as they control it closely for their teams before Solden World Cup.’’
With Covid having run rampant in Europe, Knight says ‘‘we are very careful
with social distancing’’.
‘‘Everyone has to wear masks and we can’t enter the race or be present without a negative test for Covid.’’
No spectators will be allowed this weekend.
‘‘The glacier and most hotels are closed off to everyone from [tonight].
‘‘Solden always has big crowds so they will be missed, but, whatever the deal, we are so happy to be racing.
‘‘Alice has handled the time over here really well, and we are doing our best to keep her occupied off the hill and between training.’’
Arrowtown-based New Zealand men’s coach Nils Coberger favours Alice to win again at Solden, especially as Shriffin’s gone home with a back injury.
‘‘That takes the pressure off Alice a little bit.’’
He points out she’s had a different lead-up this year as she didn’t have a full NZ season, returning early to her Italian base to avoid being locked in NZ or locked out of Europe.
‘‘That being said, Alice is world-class.
‘‘I’m sure Ferg [Jeff Fergus] and Chris have got her as well prepared as they can.’’
He doesn’t believe she’ll be affected by being on everyone’s top-three list.
‘‘Alice just wants to win, whether she’s favourite or she’s not favourite.
‘‘For all the athletes I’ve coached, that’s what sets her apart — she just wants to win every single run, every single race, every single time.’’
Meanwhile, Alice won ‘alpine ski racer of the year’ and ‘overall athlete of the
year’ at Snow Sports NZ’s annual awards last weekend.
Knight was named ‘coach of the year’.
Two other Queenstown winners were Perry Coulter (men’s masters ski racing champion) and Rowan Pemberton (instructor of the year).