Spanish ski racer Salarich dominates slalom qualifier |

Spanish ski racer Salarich dominates slalom qualifier

Joaquim Salarich of Spain walks away happy from FIS Alpine World Ski Championships slalom qualifying. He won Saturday’s slalom qualifier at Golden Peak in Vail by 1.5 seconds.
John LaConte | |

VAIL — Joaquim Salarich needed only to finish today’s slalom qualifier to make it to Beaver Creek Sunday for the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships.

The Spanish ski racer decided instead, though, that he was going to give it all he had. After the completion of his second run, Salarich lead the field by a second and a half.

“I have a lot to prove,” Salarich said. “I want to be in the top thirty on Sunday. I will start like 60 or 58 probably, but if I ski like today maybe I can be there.”

Salarich said the snow was in a perfect condition for him to ski his best.

“That snow is so easy to ski, because it’s hard, but it’s not ice,” he said. “You can push and the ski goes where you want.”

The lone Spanish slalom ski racer, Salarich said he felt like his endurance training had given him the fitness he needed to lay down a couple good runs.

“I felt that I could push it from the beginning to the finish,” he said.


The slalom qualifier was a chance for smaller countries to send a man to the World Championship slalom race at Beaver Creek, as well as an opportunity for some countries to get more than one racer into the starting gate there on Sunday. The top skier to finish from every country, in addition to the top 25 ski racers overall, were qualified. Belgium, Argentina, Bulgaria, South Korea, Australia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina were all able to earn a spot into today’s slalom for more than one racer from their country through Saturday’s qualifier.

For younger racers, the qualifier was also a chance to get some much-needed experience.

“This is only my twelfth FIS race, so I’ve never really experienced anything like this,” 16-year-old Itamar Biran of Israel, the youngest competitor in the field, said after finishing his race Saturday.

Like Salarich, Biran needed only to finish, but gave the race his all regardless, finishing 36th.

“I just wanted to go 100 percent and give it my all,” he said. “I made a small mistake, but apart from that I’m happy.”


Albert Popov, of Bulgaria, said he was more concerned with finishing in the top 25 today, rather than attacking the course.

“I was just having fun, not too risky, tomorrow is the day,” he said. “Tomorrow, I am going to throw down.”

At just 18 years old, Popov is the next great hope for the small Balkan nation that has increased its focus on ski racing over the last few years. The next stop on the women’s World Cup tour is in Bansko, Bulgaria, and their ski federation is currently town for the World Championships, touting Popov and Bansko as two reasons to take ski racing seriously in Eastern Europe.

“But I’m just skiing,” Popov said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

While it will be the first World Championships for Popov and Biran, others at today’s qualifier have seen plenty of action over the years. For Martin Vrablik of the Czech Republic, who finished third on Saturday, it is World Championships No. 7.

“This has been the best World Championships for me,” he said. “I am so happy to be here. It is my first time in the U.S., it is a great time for me. I was hoping for better results, but everything was so nice, I enjoyed it so much here, I’m really really happy.”

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