Snow Queen World Cup Alpine Ski Race Returns to Sljeme in Zagreb

Daniela Rogulj

January 4, 2020 – The Snow Queen Trophy returns to Sljeme in Zagreb on January 4 and 5, 2020. The women’s World Cup alpine skiing race is scheduled on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.

HRT reports that the first to go down the track is Slovak skier Petra Vlhova, who took the first start number at the draw held at the Ice Park at King Tomislav Square in Zagreb. Vlhova took second place at Sljeme twice, in 2017 and last year. This season, she was second in the World Cup slalom twice, in Killington in early December and Lienz five days ago.

Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin will start second and Katharina Liensberger of Austria will start third. The Snow Queen title defender, the four-time Sljeme winner and best female skier of today, American Mikaela Shiffrin, received starting number seven in the draw.

Croatian representatives Leona Popovic and Ida Stimac received high starting numbers – Popovic will start 71 and Stimac 73.

Croatian skier, 22-year-old Leona Popovic achieved 26th place and the first slalom points in her career five days ago in Lienz, Austria. 

“At this race, I surprised myself and am very pleased with the result, which is a confirmation of my work. During the ride, I couldn’t gauge how well I was going, but in the end, I realized that these were great rides. The first slalom points of the season are here and I hope to achieve good rides on Sljeme,” said Popovic, who will be making her third appearance at the Snow Queen.

Ida Stimac will participate for the second time.

“I am back after recovering from an ACL injury and for me, this is an important race. A difficult period is behind me, but I feel good and after two years, I am in great shape, which gives me every reason to be happy. I look forward to tomorrow’s race, in which I expect to show my best skiing, my best rides from training, and hope that I will ski well and be satisfied. The course is great, well prepared, which is important for all starting numbers,” said Stimac, who has already tallied a few podiums at FIS races this season.

On Sunday, six Croatian male skiers, Istok Rodes, Matej Vidovic, Elias Kolega, Filip Zubcic, Samuel Kolega and Leon Nikic, will participate in the men’s race.

Istok Rodes, Elias Kolega and Matej Vidovic will try to repeat the great results from last year’s race when all three finished in the top 20.

“After last year’s seventh place on Sljeme, I do not feel much pressure. We trained for three days in Italy and before that on the Red Slope. I’m in excellent shape and it’s up to me to show my two best rides on Sunday. If I can do that, I’m sure the result will be very good. I put the biggest pressure on myself and I think that’s good, I handle it well and it motivates me to be as good as possible. We have six more races in January, I will go from race to race and I will do my best and believe that great results will come then,” said Istok Rodes, who finished 14th in the World Cup slalom race in Levi this season and 25th in Val d’Isere.

Elias Kolega, who placed 19th in Levi and 15th in Val d’Isere, will also perform at the Snow Queen.

“I have been training on Sljeme for years and I find that the biggest challenge is the length of the course, as the competitors can lose concentration, which is why at the back of the course, mistakes that decide the race happen. I am feeling good, I prepared for the Red Slope for a week before the race, and for the last couple of days, I’ve been riding the upper part of the course. I am satisfied with the preparation and I believe that I will prove to be at my best,” commented Elias Kolega.

Matej Vidovic finished 15th on Sljeme last year and announced this year’s race with high expectations.

“For the last three days, Istok and I have been preparing in Italy, where we have had excellent conditions. Before that, we also rode the whole track on Sljeme and I am satisfied with the preparations. I’m ready, my health serves me well, and my goal is to achieve my two best rides on Sljeme. There is always a different feeling of skiing on home soil, and for me, the most important thing is to reach my maximum and ski the best I can,” said Vidovic, who was 20th in Val d’Isere.

Filip Zubcic has competed at the Snow Queen four times, and this season he finished 16th in Levi.

“I opened this season of slalom racing well, as I imagined. I am currently starting with high starting numbers, and my goal was to get the best starting position possible. I am skiing well and feel ready to race. I am at a satisfactory level for the giant slalom and slalom this season, and I’m particularly happy to be able to combine two great slalom races. I hope that I will be in the best shape in January because there are many races ahead of us and it is important to secure new points,” said Zubcic, who finished two giant slalom races among the top 10 skiers and showed good form in all technical disciplines.

On Sunday, Samuel Kolega will make his third appearance on Sljeme.

“For me, the season started great and with no injuries. I started the first part of the season the best so far, I’ve been great in FIS races, and in the World Ski and European Cup I am still trying to get better results. On Sljeme, I want to show my best skiing from training and have the best possible race,” emphasized Samuel, who announced his performance on Sljeme with a great first place in the FIS slalom race in Ladurns, Italy.

This will be the second Sljeme appearance for the young Leon Nikic.

“Preparations were a problem for me; that is, I had a minor injury that caused me to pause for six weeks. After the injury, I continued to ski great and I expect to finish the race on Sljeme successfully and prove that I can be counted on seriously,” said Nikic.

The women’s slalom race is scheduled for Saturday. The start of the first run will be at 1 pm and the second at 4:15 pm. The men’s slalom will be held on Sunday starting at 2:15 pm and the second at 5:40 pm. 

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