Great Ramon, the Greek surprise AJ Ginnis
The crazy story of Kandahar 2023!
The summary, the reactions...
What a day!
A real popular success with the show, the sun, the French and Swiss supporters who came in force, this first paying edition of the Kandahar also kept all its promises on the sporting level with a breathtaking suspense and some big surprises.
It is difficult to make predictions as Clément himself explained: "There were four different winners this winter. Henrik (Kristoffersen) has already won here, Daniel (Yule) was in a position to win in 2020 and Loïc Meillard won the parallel on this track. However, one could expect some surprises as the Verte des Houches showed a new relief with a launch ramp and terrain movements such as ridges and road crossings that allow the skiers to be challenged.
"This piste allows us to have a playful layout with speed, to push the ski" declared Clément Noël who came to train last week on the piste to get a feel for the terrain and to refine his equipment tests. To take a trick right side up or upside down was the dilemma of the first run with Clément taking the upside down option. A winning choice since he signed the best time of the first track staked by the American Matic Skube.
However, there was no significant gap since the Olympic champion was 15 and 17 hundredths ahead of the Swiss Ramon Zenhaeusern and Daniel Yule. In ambush the 3 Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen 4th at 0''40, Sebastian Foss-Solevaag 5th (+0''58) and Atle Lie Mcgrath 6th (+0''61). Apart from Manuel Feller, bib 6, who finished 22nd at 1''65, the outcome already seemed to be written.
And yet a rather crazy story was written today. While yesterday Chamonix launched the centenary of the Olympic Games and Paris 2024 was on its flag tour, it was a Greek who took 2nd place with a number 45.
Only Ramon, who was announced by his trainers as being in great shape, already 2nd in Schladming, succeeded in making a winning return after 3 years without victory.
The Greek, who is somewhat at home since he is trained by a "child of the valley" Gabriel Coulet, has thus thwarted all the statistics with his small team of 3 people, all "university friends from Vermont". His journey, full of obstacles and injuries (6 knee operations), is supported by an unfailing motivation and a tailor-made organisation. Less structured than the American team of which he was a member, this organisation is nevertheless better adapted to his atypical background.
As for Daniel Yule, he showed his form on a track that did not particularly suit him by showing his intelligence on this track with its many traps designed by the Austrian Martin Kroisleintner.
Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI), winner:
"It's so nice to win here! The second runs are never easy... I knew that here I had to be clever, especially in certain places because the track turned a lot. I lost some speed but in the end I managed it quite well. When I crossed the line and I saw green, after 2 years without a victory, I was taken by a wave of emotions... and then I threw my sticks with so much intensity and height! I was so happy, it's my first victory since 2020! It's been a long road, but with a precise objective, step by step, with a lot of hard work and determination, it pays off in the end. This new victory, with these mountains in the background, all these fans who came in numbers because Switzerland is close and with Daniel on the podium, it's great. We feel good here! Today, I thank all my team and my supplier Rossignol who always believed in me despite the lack of results. I'm going to savour this great victory and not think too much about the Worlds, each race is a new page to write."
A.J. Ginnis (GRE), 2nd:
"For the first run the coaches told me "you have to get to the bottom and get in the points" because it was important for my participation in the world championships. But during the second run, when I saw the track, I said wow! This is perfect for me and the plan was to attack without making a mistake and to go for the finish of course. Then it was crazy! When I arrived I saw that I had quite a lead over some very good skiers, I couldn't believe it! In fact I was sitting on this leader's chair, I saw my competitors coming behind me and I was thinking to myself but it's crazy, what's happening? When Daniel (Yule) arrived and was 4 hundredths behind me, I thought oh my God, this is not possible. This is my dream come true, this is my dream come true FINALLY! I grew up in Greece, my father was a skiing nut, we had a little chalet in Mount Parnassos and we went skiing at weekends until we went to Austria when I was 12! Sometimes we used to laugh and say "can you imagine if one day I made a podium in the world cup"! And it's here, it's just incredible! Despite all my setbacks, my injuries, I always had my team, my family, my sponsors who believed in me and who allowed me to continue. And this podium here is even crazier, we were saying yesterday with my coach (Gabriel Coulet ex Chamonix rider): "Imagine winning here at home... I think he is as happy as I am and will celebrate this podium with everyone here!
Daniel Yule (SUI), 3rd:
"It's a nice satisfaction especially on a course like this. It doesn't look like a track designed for me so I'm happy to get a podium even if the 4 hundredths behind A.J. are a bit frustrating but Ramon today was untouchable. I'm just satisfied with 3rd place. I feel like I'm getting more and more complete. If the snow is hard, I'm often in the mix, like today. It's a great reward for all the work we've done over the last few years with the whole team! "
Clément Noël (FRA):
"It's a bit difficult to accept when you're hot... I went from everything to nothing. I was in the match with the French public who were all over me and supported me. I was in the match with the French public who were all behind me. I was the last to start, there was a lot of expectation and I'm really disappointed that it ended like that. I made a technical mistake after the banana which slows down a lot, I wanted to recreate speed by accelerating but with haste and by forgetting the fundamentals of balance. What consoles me about this day is the second place of A.J., he is a good friend, he trained with us last week, he is an extremely nice boy, very very respectful and who has a complicated background. He created his own career, he built himself up on his own with his structure while always remaining open to others, he is a guy I adore and I am really happy to see him on the podium."
Fred Comte, director of the Club des Sports de Chamonix, said:
"Everything was perfect. We were lucky with the weather, we had an exceptional run according to the racers and coaches, as you can see with the number 45 who finished on the podium. This is our first job, to ensure a quality track. We created a lot of terrain movements on this track, a bit innovative even with this famous diagonal stop, everyone loved it, it adds a bit of life to the slalom runs, it allows the riders to express themselves.
Then the public was there, there was a crazy atmosphere. We can say that it's a trademark of the Chamonix Mont-Blanc valley now, it's a public of connoisseurs, the people who come love skiing, there are also many Valaisans and some Italians, it's a real community of ski fans who come. It's perfect, and it could have been even more perfect if Clément had been on the podium... But afterwards it's the slalom, it's skiing, it's sport, so we accept it. Congratulations to the Swiss team who came back very strong and congratulations to A.J. Ginnis, our Greek friend who was able to train last week with the French team on this track and it worked.
Two words about next year, we are on the calendar on February 3rd and 4th. We will be marking the first centenary of the 1924 Olympic Games in the valley and it will also be 100 years to the day since the creation of the FIS in Chamonix. Two races are on the programme, we are currently working with the FIS to refine the programme and today we have clearly asked to have a downhill and a slalom. We hope to be listened to. Everyone is looking forward to having a downhill on the Verte des Houches.
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