Leever Leads Three U.S. Men into Schladming Slalom Second Run
Alex Leever led three U.S. men into the second run in the annual Schladming night slalom, crashing into the finish to take 24th place and score his first World Cup points.
While Schladming is normally one of the most exciting races on the World Cup circuit, the race was notably subdued without 45,000 screaming Austrians cheering on their favorites. But that didn’t seem to keep the Austrian team down, with Marco Schwarz snagging the win at home to retain the FIS World Cup overall slalom lead. Frenchmen Clement Noel and Alexis Pinturault were second and third, respectively.
It snowed heavily all night long, but the expert course crew kept the surface slick and firm, allowing three U.S. men to attack from the back first run and qualify for a second run. Ben Ritchie, wearing bib 47, led the men in 17th place while Alex Leever (bib 66) was 26th and Jett Seymour (bib 58) was 30th. None of the men had ever qualified for a second run prior to Schladming. Luke Winters did not finish the first run.
Ritchie skied well out of the gate second run, but got bucked around in the soft snow and missed a gate. Seymour ran first in the second run, but got into trouble—and while he finished the race to take 25th place, he did not score points.
Leever, a former NCAA All American skier for the University of Denver and racing in just his third World Cup, put down a solid run to try and finish the tough offset course. But just after the final hairpin, there were three significant turns that tripped up a lot of the men. Leever got back on his tails two gates before the finish, sending him flying through the finish line and crashing with a face full of snow after the lights. He pumped his fist into the air, knowing that he managed to keep his skis and boots around the last two gates, officially making him a World Cup finisher and scoring him his first-ever World Cup points.
"It was an amazing, amazing experience to qualify for a second run and to score my first points," said Leever. "You obviously have this belief growing up that you’re going to be a World Cup skier but there are always these nagging doubts if it was actually going to happen... I came through and saw myself in the top 30 was surreal. I was hit with so many emotions—I couldn’t believe it. It was such this wave, achieving my lifelong dream of scoring World Cup points. It’s all up from here hopefully."
Ryan Wilson, the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team men’s World Cup slalom coach, was also excited about the progress in the race and seeing three U.S. men in the second run. “Another very productive first step,” he said. “Three new guys in the second run—that’s something we gotta celebrate.”
The tech men have two more slalom races in Chamonix January 30-31 before the FIS Ski World Championships in Cortina begin February 8. “Excited for the next two races now,” said Ryan. “We’re all chomping at the bit. We’ve been in a bit of a lull since Luke’s race in Adelboden. We definitely had a great training block before this and I think that showed across the board. We’re ready for more—eager, hungry, readier than we’ve ever been for more.”
The race also marked the end of 41-year-old Frenchman Julien Lizeroux’s career. One of the mainstays on the World Cup for two decades (and with one of the best start gate flips in World Cup history), the skier provided leadership and guidance for many young athletes on the circuit. U.S. Ski & Snowboard bids him good luck in his future endeavors and thanks him for all he did for the sport over the years.
HOW TO WATCH
*All times EST
Tuesday, Jan. 26
11:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Men's Downhill (Sunday), Kitzbuehel, AUT, Broadcast NBCSN
12:30 a.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Giant Slalom - same-day broadcast, Kronplatz, ITA, Broadcast NBCSN