January 22, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
Waves of applause and the clapping of ski poles could be heard on Saturday afternoon when Jan Zabystran crossed the finish line.
The Czech won the men’s slalom on Whiteface Mountain for his third gold and fourth medal overall at the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid.
“I thought I could fight for a top five today, maybe even a top three, so getting my third gold medal here – it’s just crazy,” Zabystran said in the post-race interview.
Finishing third on the first run, four tenths behind American Jacob Dilling and 14 hundredths behind Frenchman Jeremy Lagier, the triple champion started third in the rematch. He took the lead by over a second, a huge difference in alpine skiing, and despite getting close, his two rivals still waiting at the starting gate could not beat his combined time of 1:51.38.
“I tried to push as hard as I could in the second run, but the track was really tough and my legs were on fire. It was a very tight race for the top places, so I also had a bit of luck” – added Zabystran.
Lagier also passed Dilling and finished five-hundredths behind for silver, while the American finished third, 0.09 behind the winner.
The public announcer at Whiteface Mountain was looking for superlatives, trying to put into words Zabystran’s amazing series of performances: “I’ve never seen such a man in alpine skiing. Winning four medals from four events is like the legendary victories of Eric Heiden and Michael Phelps at the Olympics,” he said.
Zabystran, a student at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, previously triumphed in giant slalom and super-G, and also won bronze in the alpine combined.
Almost untouchable on the slopes, he was the most successful alpine skier at this year’s FISU Games.
“I participated in the Youth Olympic Games in 2016,” recalls Zabystran. “At that time, there was one alpine skier competing who won four or five gold medals, and I said to myself, ‘I want to do the same someday’ … Here we go.”
Excellence in both speed and technical disciplines is a rare skill among professional skiers who usually specialize in one of these two disciplines.
“I really enjoy all the disciplines of alpine skiing and try to practice them all,” said Zabystran, explaining his amazing all-round skills. “But next season I will have to shift it more to one discipline and focus more on super-G.”
Lake Placid 2023 is Zabystrana’s last university games.
“After that, there will only be the World Cup and the Olympic Games. It will be much harder to win races at this level, but I will do my best.
Returning to Europe on Monday, Zabystran will go straight to the next Super-G World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“I’m sure I’ll be very tired from the journey,” he said with a chuckle. “But you know, I will still try and give my best.”
Written by Annika Saunus, FISU Young Reporter
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