The last time the world’s best junior alpine skiers came to Sweden to compete for the FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championship medals was thirty years ago. This year, the Championships are back on Swedish snow. On Monday, March 6, the Åre 2017 Junior Worlds kicked off with downhill training on a slope that put the athletes’ skills to a test.

The sun came out right in time for the junior athletes to kick off from the start gate. The week started off with the first of two downhill training sessions for both the ladies and men to prepare for the downhill competitions on Wednesday, March 8. Due to heavy winds at the top of the mountain, the start had to be moved down, but it seemed that the athletes didn’t mind.

”It was a good ride,” Swedish athlete Zack Monsén said after recording the sixth best time of the day.

One part of the slope, called ‘Stöveln’, created problems for some of the athletes. Getting the right timing there was crucial to setting the perfect line.

”I got really pushed down so I came in late into Stöveln,” one of the male athletes said after his run.

The ladies’ training session saw two Austrian athletes scoring the fastest times of the day: Nina Ortlieb and Franziska Gritsch. Swede Lin Ivarsson, who competes for the local alpine club Åre SLK, set the third best time in the training session.

In the men’s training session, Maximilian Lahnsteiner, also representing Austria, was the fastest, followed by Olle Sundin, Sweden, and Erik Arvidsson, USA. Tomorrow Tuesday, March 7, another training session awaits before the competitions begin with the ladies’ and men’s downhills.

45 nations are represented in the championships that continue until March 14. The athletes will compete in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, alpine combined and the nations’ team event. In the individual events, the winners don’t just receive a medal but also a ticket to the World Cup finals in Aspen later this month. The competitions are first and foremost an experience and a stepping stone into higher levels of racing.

Project Manager at ‘the Juniors’ and a former elite alpine racer Hans Olsson knows what he’s talking about. He won the super-G gold medal in Maribor in 2004 and went on to compete for the Swedish national team at senior level.

“It’s a stepping stone into the next level of professional alpine skiing. It’s big,” Olsson says about participating in ‘the Juniors’.

The FIS Junior Alpine World Ski Championships are carried out by Åre 2019, the host of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre in two years’ time.

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