A top ski racing coach says a 17-year-old Queenstowner’s performance at the World Cup giant slalom final in Andorra last Sunday was “truly mind-boggling”.
Alice Robinson finished just three-10ths of a second behind arguably the world’s greatest women’s racer, American Mikaela Shriffrin, whom she beat in her second run, and relegated world champion Petra Vlhova, of Slovakia, to third on the podium.
Arrowtown-based New Zealand men’s coach Nils Coberger, who’s assisted Alice, says the Eurosport TV commentators texted him between runs, saying “this girl’s just insane”.
“Perhaps those older girls have slightly better tactics, but in terms of making 15 linked turns, one after another, on any kind of pitch, Alice is probably the best [female GS skier] in the world right now,” Coberger says.
“This is just the beginning – in our sport she’s going to be huge.’
He says she’ll be “way bigger” than his sister Annelise Coberger, who won Olympic silver in 1992.
“Alice can ski race for the next 15 years, she can be insanely successful in winning many, many ski races.”
Coberger says Alice’s strength, beyond her technical and tactical skills, is her fearlessness.
“She’s just such a fierce competitor in the way she always wants to do something better.”
Rather than hold her position after a good first run, for example, she’ll go out fearlessly to try to win – “that’s so rare that an athlete has that confidence”.
Coberger says Queenstown Alpine Ski Team can take credit for her development, while her coach from day one, Queenstowner Tim Cafe, “should be incredibly proud of what he’s done”.
Alice has also been assisted by ex-United States women’s team coaches Chris Knight and Jeff Fergus, who’ve also coached US star Lindsey Vonn.
She joined their newly-formed International Ski Racing Academy last November.
Christchurch-raised Knight says the turning point came when they changed her equipment set-up.
“The results [including winning the world juniors GS] were almost immediate.”
Knight notes that prior to Sunday’s race, Alice easily beat all her competitors on her second day’s training.
“Being able to show her this in a video session has to give you a lot of confidence and the best part of it is she made it look effortlessly simple.”
Meanwhile, Coberger says Alice now has sponsors knocking down her door.
He expects people will also want to train beside her at Queenstown’s Coronet Peak this winter.
“Coronet Peak is an incredible training venue, it was only a matter of time, really, before we put another skier back on the map.”