Highly ranked New Zealand skier and current national champion Ben Griffin, 25, (Ohakune) has returned to the circuit after an eleven month break from racing, proving he has still got the edge when he was top Australasian finisher, scoring a 20 point result, in the Australia New Zealand Cup (ANC) giant slalom at Coronet Peak on Monday (August 20).
Griffin, who broke his neck in 2008 and made a strong comeback to racing following his injury, did not travel to the Northern Hemisphere for the 2011/2012 season and says it is “good to be back in race conditions.”
The race, held for the first time on Coronet Peak’s new giant slalom course in the Rocky Gully arena, featured an intense tussle for the podium and was won by German world cup skier Felix Neureuther in 1.41.26 with Robby Kelly (USA) in 1.41.59 and David Donaldson (Canada) in 1.42.13. hard on his heels.
Griffin, who is ranked 210 in the world in giant slalom finished 11th but was in the top six after his first run time of 52.76. He finished in a combined time of 1.42.78.
“It was great to be in that position after the first but I made too many mistakes in the second run. While I am skiing well I am looking to put down two consistent solid runs as the season goes on.”
Last week in the ANC series at Mt Hotham in Australia Griffin finished 4th and 7th in the two giant slalom races, scoring 20points and 22 points respectively, and again had two fast first runs but lost ground in the second runs.
“To get the results you have to be consistent and that’s what I am working on. However I am definitely getting my points down which I am happy about.”
Nick Prebble, 19, (Christchurch)starting in bib 42 in the 67-strong international field, was the next best of the Kiwis and Australians in 29th place while Willis Feasey, 20, (Twizel) was third in 31st position, skiing below his current 42 point ranking.
The ANC women’s giant slalom attracted a field of 25 athletes and was dominated by internationals, with a battle for the gold medal between the winner Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia who clocked 1.44.24 and Austrian Regina Mader, who was only splits behind in 1.44.96.
The top performer among the New Zealanders was Taylor Rapley,21, (Queenstown) , starting in 18th place, to finish tenth in 1.50.04.Harriet Miller-Brown, 20, (Queenstown) improved three places to finish 12th in 1.50.67 while Piera Hudson, 16, (Hawkes Bay) starting in bib 16 took out 13th in 1.52.85.
The ANC men’s slalom (August 21), also raced in the Rocky Gully arena, was clearly won by Adam Zampa of Slovakia in 1.26.74 with Adam Barwood, 20, (Queenstown) first Australasian in 18th place after starting in bib 51. He recorded 1.31.28 skiing just outside his points. Jamie Prebble, 21, (Christchurch) finished 22nd from a start of 53, clocking 1.32.39.
Rapley skied consistently to finish as top New Zealander in 11th place in the ANC women’s slalom. She recorded 1.37.59 ahead of Miller-Brown in 12th place who stopped the clock at 1.38.07 and scored a 37 point result to lower her world ranking. Melissa Jones, 18, (Queenstown) skied below her points to finish 15th in 1.47.99 after starting in 25th place.
The top three women’s slalom places were tightly fought by Eva Marie Brem (Austria)who claimed the title in 1.34.06 ahead of Rikke Gasmann-Brott ( Norway)in 1.34.27 and Anna Sorokina (Russia) in 1.34.68.
The ANC finals will be held at Mount Hutt September 3-11 and will feature downhill, Super G, Super Combi, giant slalom and slalom racing.