The fired-up Finnish pair of Rosa Pohjolainen and Jaakko Tapanainen turned a week of frustration into a golden conclusion as they dominated the popular parallel mixed team event on Wednesday.
After failing to produce their best in earlier events, the duo took their disappointment out on the opposition, losing just two of their 16 races as they stormed through the field to a welcome gold.
“I woke up today and I wanted this gold medal,” said Pohjolainen, who was distraught after a disappointing performance during Tuesday’s first slalom run having entered the competition as a firm favourite.
“After slalom I felt bad, I knew I had speed but it was a bad day. I spoke to my coach last night, sorted out some things. I was so focused today.”
The 16-year-old Pohjolainen led from the front, winning all eight of her races in the event that sees skiers go head-to-head down parallel slalom courses.
“I am a secure skier, I don’t make many mistakes normally so this was a good event for me,” she said.
Teammate Tapanainen was almost as good. Wrapped in smiles, the 17-year-old was delighted to finally feel like he had shown the world what he can do.
“I had that passion to win today, it’s been a hard week for me until now,” he said having helped his country beat Germany 4-0 in the final.
“It’s a cool event, different and fun.”
Max Geissler-Hauber (GER) and Lara Klein (GER) were looking to win Germany’s second successive team gold after their compatriots triumphed at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
And while they fell one spot short, neither skier was complaining too much.
“It’s almost the perfect way to end,” Geissler-Hauber said. “Now I can drive home happy.”
For Klein it was a second medal in 24 hours.
“We had to beat the Swiss [in the quarter-finals] and that was really hard but somehow we managed it, it’s a big surprise,” said Klein who earned bronze in the women’s slalom.
While naturally a little disappointed that their heroes could not finish with a flourish, the packed crowd at Les Diablerets Alpine Centre roared all 32 competitors on, revelling in the non-stop action.
Multi-medallists Philip Hoffmann (AUT) and Amanda Salzgeber (AUT) edged out France in the third-fourth place battle, taking bronze on a combined times tiebreak after the two nations finished locked at two wins each.
It capped a thrilling six days of Alpine action. From the men’s slalom and Super-G champion Adam Hofstedt (SWE) to Austria’s triple medal winner Salzgeber, as well as Israel’s Noa Szollos showing the world that it is not all about the European powerhouses by grabbing a silver and a bronze, there were memorable performances aplenty.
However, even among all of this, one name stands out.
“It was just an incredible week, so many emotions,” Amelie Klopfenstein (SUI) said.
The teenager wrote herself into Swiss skiing lore by winning two golds and a bronze after being called up as a last-minute reserve.
Her compatriot Luc Roduit, a three-time medal winner himself, perhaps best summed up the prevailing mood.
“I am sad it is finishing,” he said. I would like to do another week.”