January 17, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
“I spoke to my mum last night and told her I wanted to be first today – and I did!”
Spain’s Albert Ortega kept his word – and his mother was certainly proud of him – on Monday when he won gold in the men’s alpine combined at the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid.
Ortega finished sixth after Monday’s Super G – the first leg of the Alpine Combined competition – and had an amazing performance in today’s slalom to move up to first place overall. He maintained pole position after crossing the finish line as none of the five medalists still waiting at the starting line managed to beat his combined time.
“I trained a lot in slalom this year and rode really well today, so I’m very happy to win a gold medal here,” said Ortega, who studies at the Open University of Cataluna in Barcelona.
The silver was won by Lithuanian Andrej Drukarov ahead of Jan Zabystran from the Czech Republic. Super G gold medalist Zabystran led after the first match in his favorite discipline, but struggled in the slalom and dropped to third place.
“It didn’t go exactly as planned, I was hoping for a win, but I made a lot of mistakes on the course today, so I’m glad I didn’t go skiing and still got the bronze medal,” said Zabystran.
“The snow here is a bit different than in Europe, it’s icy and drier,” added the bronze medalist, who studies at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague and had never been to the United States before the FISU Games. “But I really like the resort at Whiteface Mountain, the slopes are the same as in the 1980 Olympics, so they are at World Cup level.”
Later on Monday, Celia Abad triumphed in the women’s competition, making her the perfect understudy for the Spanish delegation. Abad was leading after the super-G and was unbeaten in the slalom.
“I came here today to win but things can always happen so I’m very happy with the result and grateful to everyone who helped me get there.”
Witnessing Ortega’s victory just hours before her own race motivated Abad, who represents the University of the Basque Country.
“It’s a really good day for Spain and especially for alpine skiing in Spain. We’ve worked hard to be among the best athletes in the world. We will definitely celebrate it today.”
Despite Spain looking like strong contenders for a medal in the mixed teams tournament on Thursday, they will not be able to compete.
“There are only three of us here, and you need four,” Abad explained. “But I’m sure over the next few years we’ll come up with more athletes and fight for gold.”
Among the women, Julia Socquet Dagoreau from France came in second, ahead of Germany’s Leonie Floetgen, who celebrated her birthday by winning a bronze medal.
“I had no idea how other girls raced in slalom, so getting on the podium was quite unexpected,” said Floetgen. “I made a few mistakes at the very beginning of the tour, so I was very surprised to be on the podium. Winning bronze on my birthday – it’s just super cool and I’m really happy.”
The next medal events in alpine skiing will be held on Tuesday in the women’s giant slalom and on Wednesday in the men’s giant slalom.
Written by Annika Saunus, FISU Young Reporter
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