Lena Dürr blew hard and wiped the tears of joy from her eyes. Then she was able to feel for the first time what it feels like to be on top of a slalom podium.
With her greatest success to date in the 190th World Cup race, Dürr's long journey to the top of the world reached its temporary high point. Now the 31-year-old can even dream of World Cup gold.
A week before the start of the World Championships, Dürr gave the German Ski Association its first slalom victory since Maria Höfl-Riesch's success in 2012. "It took a while," Dürr said with a sympathetic dose of self-mockery. For minutes after her success, the technician sat glued to the leader's seat and gazed into the distance. The Bavarian didn't say more than "it's just unbelievable".
Dürr started the season with two big goals: "The first World Cup victory and Shiffrin crack". She finally wanted to top her success in the lower-ranked City Event 2013 in Moscow. At the World Championship dress rehearsal in Spindleruv Mlyn she managed to do both. Dürr was 0.67 seconds behind the exceptional American athlete after the first round. After a magic ride through the pole forest, the Olympic fourth caught up more and more and was finally six hundredths of a second ahead of Shiffrin.
On the other hand, the champion of the zigzag course missed her 86th World Cup victory on Sunday and thus the legendary record of the former Swedish alpine star Ingemar Stenmark. The high-flyer still had reason to be happy: With her second place, Shiffrin secured early victory in the discipline ranking. This time, however, most of the cameras were aimed at her German opponent.
When Dürr finally freed herself from the arms of her cheering teammates, she threw her skis in the air. Her primal scream even seemed louder than the applause of the thousands of spectators. The Czech mountain panorama was reflected in Dürr's ski goggles, and her face was proud of the greatest success of her career.
"Lena and Shiffrin are currently the best slalom drivers," said women's head coach Andreas Puelacher. "We have analyzed a lot and Lena now drives with much more self-confidence. Especially on steep slopes." Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement: "They are not risking their last shirts yet," said Puelacher.
Preparation pays off
The preparation for the season with the men in South America has paid off. That was already clear with Dürr's second place the day before. The slalom specialist had hoped for an increase in performance from driving alongside teammate Alexander Schmid and Linus Straßer. She wanted to dash down the slopes more impulsively from the starting point - and develop the courage to take risks in the second run as well. Dürr impressively demonstrated aggressiveness from above in their four slalom runs over the weekend.
A few years ago, Dürr would hardly have thought that she would one day be at the top. Her journey to the top of the world was arduous. Sometimes a place in the top 15, sometimes a massive gap to Shiffrin and Co. - Dürr received the receipt for the sobering performance more than three years ago when she lost her squad status for six months. Instead of a service man and squad training, the motto from then on was: grow your own skis and look for your own training group. "That had a positive impact on me," Dürr once said.
15 years after her World Cup debut, the time had come. Dürr has often been in the lead. For example at the Olympic drama in Beijing or at the season opener in Levi. In the end her nerves didn't cooperate. After the liberation, many things seem possible. Also at the World Cup in France.