As pro skiers slalomed down slopes at near unfathomable speeds, spectators have witnessed incredible action at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 - five alpine skiing disciplines, nine medal events, and hundreds of stories to be told.
From Swiss reserve team member to multi-medal winner
Swiss Alpine skier Amelie Klopfenstein’s success sent the local crowds wild.
“I don’t know how it happened, it’s really incredible,” said the 17-year-old who was only called up to the Swiss squad on 3 January 2020. “It does feel like a dream, I hope not to wake up.”
In the space of just three days at the Les Diablerets Alpine Centre, Klopfenstein has won two golds and a bronze medal, with her gold victory in the women’s giant slalom title adding to her win in the Super-G gold and third place in the combined.
Double-gold in combined
In the conclusion to the men’s combined race, Mikkel Remsoey (NOR) and Auguste Aulnette (FRA) created a lifetime’s friendship as the pair shared gold. Starting 0.71 seconds behind overnight leader and Super-G champion Adam Hofstedt (SWE), Aulnette produced the performance of the day in the slalom to jump from ninth to first.
The gold medalists honoured at the #Lausanne2020 Medal Plaza last night🌟🏅— Lausanne 2020 ❄️ Winter Youth Olympic Games 🥇🥈🥉 (@lausanne2020) 12 January 2020
🥇 Auguste Aulnette🇫🇷
🥇 Alena Mokhova🇷🇺
🥇 Amanda Salzgeber🇦🇹
🥇 Adam Hofstedt🇸🇪
“Last night I went to sleep and imagined I would win and now I have,” the Frenchman said. New best friend Remsoey had been furious with himself after Saturday’s Super-G run but he came out firing for his favoured slalom following a stirring overnight chat with his coach.
Raised by World champions
Amanda Salzgeber (AUT) shrugged off the pressure of being the offspring of Alpine skiing royalty to make her own mark on the Swiss slopes as she won the women’s combined. The 17-year-old is the daughter of Calgary 1988 combined champion Anita Wachter and the 1993 world championship silver medallist Rainer Salzgeber. But the teenager showed she is very much her own woman as she swept to victory by an impressive overall margin of 0.95 seconds.
The harder the better
Fueled by a burning desire to match the exploits of his female teammates, Austria’s Philip Hoffmann dominated the men’s giant slalom thanks to his tight technique.
The 17-year-old appeared utterly untroubled by the hard, icy conditions at Les Diablerets Alpine Centre. Comfortably posting the fastest time in both runs to take gold. He left Swiss pair Sandro Zurbruegg and Luc Roduit trailing in silver and bronze medal positions respectively.
After claiming victory in the men’s Super-G, Adam Hofstedt striked again. The Swede and Emma Sahlin kept it simple by topping the men’s and women’s slalom podiums.
Adam Hofstedt finished his race in 1 minute 16.10 seconds ahead of Roduit in silver, with Italian Edoardo Saracco taking bronze.
Sahlin finished women’s slalom ahead of Lena Volken (SUI) and Lara Klein (DE).
“My mum and dad came yesterday from Sweden, just for this race, very good timing,” Sahlin said with a laugh.
Last but not least - 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. 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 had that passion to win today, it’s been a hard week for me until now,” Jaakko Tapanainen said having helped his country beat Max Geissler-Hauber (GER) and Lara Klein (GER) 4-0 in the final.
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.
Representing the nation on the global winter Youth Olympics stage
Alpine skiing at Lausanne 2020 was not only about who is the fastest. For many young athletes it was an adventure of a lifetime - an opportunity to travel for the first time in their live and a chance to make friends for life.
Before Lausanne 2020, Thabo Rateleki had never skied outside South Africa and never even taken a plane before. Until now, Thabo’s sights had not extended far beyond Tiffindell, the only ski resort in South Africa. But, standing at the slalom finish line, he was absolutely delighted to have completed the two runs on the icy slope at Les Diablerets.
With the Trinidad and Tobago flag waving and her parents cheering at the finish line, Abigail Vieira made history by becoming the first athlete from the dual-island Caribbean nation to compete at a Winter Youth Olympic Games. She placed 42nd out of 62 competitors, finishing in 1 minute, 2.58 seconds. But neither the time nor the result mattered: representing the nation on the global stage was what counted most.
Winter meets Summer Olympian— M.K Thomas, OLY (@Mikel_Thomas) January 13, 2020
So excited to meet Abby, 🇹🇹our 1st Youth Winter Olympian. Best part I got to take her through the Health for Performance athlete education programs & activities to raise her awareness about development, performance, & injury prevention. #TeamTTO pic.twitter.com/DEq2lbW09b
Thirteen months ago Thailand’s Nichakan Chinupun had never seen snow. Now she is a bonafide Winter Youth Olympian, having completed both runs to finish 37th out of a starting list of 78 athletes in the Alpine skiing women’s giant slalom on Sunday. “The first time I saw snow it was very beautiful, and I couldn’t believe how soft it was when I touched it. But I was scared to walk on it,” Chinupun said of her eye-opening trip to Gressoney in the Italian Alps in December 2018.
Thirteen months ago, Thailand’s Nichakan Chinupun had never even seen snow! 🙀— Athlete365 (@Athlete365) January 14, 2020
Now, our Game Changer of the Day is here, mixing with the best in the world & bringing the heat to #Lausanne2020 🇹🇭🙌#GameChangers #YouthOlympics @fisalpine
📸 Credit OIS / Dylan Burns pic.twitter.com/eqXBQUl5TA
Skier Mia Nuriah Freudweiler has made it her personal goal to improve both gender equality and recognition of winter sports in Pakistan. "My goal is to inspire and empower young Pakistani girls," she told us.
Mackenson Florindo has become Haiti’s first winter Olympian at a moment that coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated his Caribbean island homeland. Haiti’s sole competitor at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Florindo finished 51st out of a 77-man field in Monday’s giant slalom at Les Diablerets. But just being able to compete and represent Haiti in Olympic competition was all that mattered for him.