Hurt Grabs World Juniors Slalom Bronze to Lead Two Americans into Top Six at Bansko
Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete AJ Hurt won slalom bronze at FIS Alpine World Junior Ski Championships in Bansko, Bulgaria on Wednesday, becoming the first American woman to podium in slalom since teammate Paula Moltzan won in 2015 in Hafjell, Norway.
Italy’s Sophie Mathiou won gold, Sweden’s Moa Bostroem Mussener grabbed silver, .20 back, and Hurt rounded out the podium with bronze, .21—just one one-hundredth out of second place. Teammate Zoe Zimmermann was a solid sixth-place at her first World Championships, .51 off Mathiou’s pace. This was Zimmermann’s debut World Junior Championship start.
Zimmermann, who hails from Gilford, N.H. and Burke Mountain Academy, and comes from skiing heritage—her grandfather, Egon Zimmermann was on the Austrian National Ski Team in the late 1950s and competed in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley. Her grandmother, Penny Pitou, was on the U.S. Ski Team during that time and won two silver medals at the Squaw Valley Olympics. "I was really looking forward to the slalom race this year since it was canceled last year due to COVID," said Zimmermann. "I definitely felt a bit of pressure only starting one event in Bansko, but I perform better when I’m nervous, so it worked out in my favor. Today you really had to attack to be fast. I’m super happy with my performance and even happier to share a great day with my teammate AJ."
Hurt, who won silver in the team event at 2019 World Junior Ski Championships in Val di Fassa, Italy, and has scored World Cup points in four disciplines this season (slalom, parallel, giant slalom, and super-G), was a favorite in the super-G and giant slalom, but not necessarily the slalom. As a 20-year-old, the slalom was Hurt’s last career World Junior Championships start. “At the beginning of World Juniors I expected more from the super-G and GS, but wasn’t able to ski the way I would have liked,” said Hurt after her slalom podium. “I came into today with lower expectations and just wanted to enjoy my last ever race at World Juniors. I think taking that pressure off of myself allowed me to ski more like myself and I was able to finally pull through with a medal.”
With her bronze medal, Hurt became the first American woman to podium in World Juniors slalom since teammate Paula Moltzan won in 2015 in Hafjell, Norway. Prior to that, another teammate, two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin grabbed bronze in Crans Montana, Switzerland in 2011, and Olympian Resi Stiegler won bronze in Montgenevre, France in 2003. All four women will be competing together in the upcoming weekend's slalom FIS Ski World Cup series at Are, Sweden.
Also starting for the Americans were Nicola Rountree-Williams, who did not finish first run, and Allie Resnick, who did not finish second run. The Americans ended up tied for sixth with Germany in the Marc Hodler Trophy standings—an award recognizing overall team performance throughout the Junior World Championships. Austria, who had six medals in six events (including two gold), won the Marc Hodler Trophy, followed by Italy in second, and Sweden in third.
The women’s slalom concludes competition at World Juniors in Bansko, Bulgaria. Up next, Hurt will travel to Are, Sweden for the final FIS Ski World Cup slalom doubleheader prior to World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.