A week ago, Alpine skier Amelie Klopfenstein (SUI) was not even part of the Swiss squad. A late call up gave the home crowd what they wanted on the opening morning of competition at Lausanne 2020, with the first gold of the Games going to the 17-year-old in the women’s Super G.
Following a frustrating start to the season, Klopfenstein was devastated to narrowly miss out on selection for the YOG but after close friend Delphine Darbellay was forced to pull out with injury on 3 January, she took full advantage of her second chance.
“Just a few weeks ago I was a reserve and now… it’s incredible. I would not have believed it was possible,” Klopfenstein said after finishing in 56.27 seconds, 0.08 seconds ahead of France’s Caitlin McFarlane in silver, with Israeli Noa Szollos snatching bronze from Austrian Amanda Salzgeber.
“I got a phone call at home a week ago, I was so sad for Delphine but I knew it was a good
opportunity for me and Delphine wished me good luck.”
Klopfenstein flew down the steep, fast course, flawlessly negotiating the tricky middle section. Compatriot Delia Durrer (SUI) had been tipped by many to start the Games in perfect fashion for the hosts but after finishing in a time of 57.35 seconds the teenager admitted she had felt a “little stiff with pressure” at the top.
That left the way clear for Klopfenstein to complete her remarkable comeback.
“This season has not been my best but it meant I went out this morning with no pressure,” she said.
Silver medallist McFarlane was almost as shocked as the winner, revealing in the finish area that she is “not really a speed racer”.
“I did not expect that at all but it gives me great confidence for the slalom, my favourite,” the Australian-born French athlete said. “This is the biggest competition of my life, the adrenaline really got me going.”
Israel’s Szollos completed the trio of delighted medallists. “I was hoping for top 10, maybe top seven,” Szollos said. “I have skied a lot of Super G this year though and we’ve been really focusing on technique not just going fast. I hope I have made Israel proud.”
She certainly delighted her watching father, the former world championship skier Peter Szollos.
“My whole life is watching my children race and helping train them,” said Szollos senior, who four years ago stood on the slopes in Lillehammer and applauded as his son Barnabas finished seventh in slalom at the 2016 YOG.