Here a new star is born

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With a big smile around his mouth, he closed his eyes and put his right hand over his heart. The 20-year-old from Hokksund could not sing to his heart’s content, until there were too many emotions in the swing, but he was able to stutter a few words when “Yes, we love” resounded with mighty alpine peaks bathed in sun as a backdrop.

Then he opened his eyes and bowed reverently to a few hundred people around the target area in Sölden.

Here a new star was born. His name is Lucas Braathen, he is only 20 years old, but on Sunday 18 October 2020 at 2.15 pm he was able to note an achievement that is rare for alpinists of his age:

Victory in giant slalom in the World Cup opening in Sölden.

– Victory was perhaps too much to ask for. I know I have mental strength, but my first victory in the season’s first World Cup race just feels incredible, smiled the boy who was born four months into this millennium.

Lucas Braathen closed his eyes and tried to sing along to “Yes, we love”. Photo: LEONHARD FOEGER, REUTERS

“There are no boundaries”

At home in Oslo sat someone who knows what it is like to break through at such a young age. Kjetil André Aamodt followed the World Cup opening from his mobile phone. Minutes after Braathen had driven in to his first World Cup winner, Aamodt admitted that he had “goosebumps from head to toe”.

– Lucas proved today what he is made of. He’s already up there now. There are no limits to what he can achieve.

– How big do you think Lucas Braathen can be?

– This was the first victory and he is only 20 years old. It is very rare for athletes to strike so early, especially in men’s alpine skiing. The last two were Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristoffersen, and they have been extremely good. He’s in that league there. Lucas is someone who can “smell” Alberto Tomba, even though it is still early to predict anything.

For the record, the legendary Italian technician Alberto Tomba, who ended up with 50 World Cup slalom and giant slalom victories, was 20 years and 11 months old when he won his first World Cup victory in November 1987.

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Only Kristoffersen was younger

Braathen thus beat “Tomba la Bomba” by five months, while he is in the month as old as Aamodt was when he won Olympic gold in Albertville.

Marcel Hirscher was 20 years and 10 months old when he won his first World Cup victory, while Kristoffersen was 19 years old and six months old when he could cheer for his first victory in Schladming in January 2014.

– I am both stronger physically and better technically than last year, Braathen explains.

The 20-year-old had not been on the podium in the World Cup before when he went to the top in Sölden, the first Norwegian victory on the glacier since Aksel Lund Svindal won there 13 years ago.

He was 24 hundredths behind the leader after the first half. Braathen made a big mistake about halfway through the final round, but he just drove on.

– Then I thought it was game over. Now I smoke, this will not be good. I was very rotated in the position, I got a skid. But luckily I got the speed out on the surface with me.

A loud “jaaaaaaadddaaaaa!” resounded in the goal area when he saw the number 1 shining on the scoreboard.

When the last four failed to beat the Norwegian’s time, he went down on his knees. He took to his helmet, as if he did not quite understand what he had been up to. The 20-year-old doubted his skis and shook his head, before getting up and cheering.

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Lucas Braathen was soaked in champagne by the other two on the podium, the two Swiss Marco Odermatt and Gino Caviezel. Photo: Giovanni Auletta, AP

– The first the lightest

Henrik Kristoffersen, who finished fifth in Sölden, has 21 World Cup victories. He reminds Braathen that it is something completely different to defend a victory than to win for the first time.

– The first was the lightest. No one expects anything. When you have so many podium places like “Pinten” and Hirscher, there are expectations in every single race. The transition to winning often is a completely different matter, Kristoffersen said during a meeting with Norwegian journalists via Teams.

– Pinturault has 26 victories, I have 21 victories. But it is incredibly good to take their first World Cup winner today. It is a special hill, but Lucas drove with a lot of power, he is early developed to be 20 years old. I was nowhere near being so developed. It is very impressive, Kristoffersen continued.

If Kristoffersen is right that the first is the relief, Braathen was not very concerned.

– I’m shitting that today. I think it’s totally sick to win a World Cup race today at the age of 20, it’s really cool. He can say what he wants, I’m very happy.

Gives the mentality the credit

Teammate Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen calls Braathen a splash of color.

– He is quick in his reply and big in his mouth. But we quickly get him down to earth again. Lucas is a huge resource for the team.

Braathen points to the fearless attitude among the young boys on the team as one of the success criteria.

– I think the mentality of us younger is an advantage. We have in common we younger on the team. It helps. We have very little respect for these brutal trails, that is the key to driving fast.

Aamodt believes Braathen still has a lot to work with, among other things he has to “set the technique”.

– Lucas has an insane physique and a head that is created for alpine. He thinks and does a lot right. Now he must continue to stay injury-free.

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