Vali Höll won back-to-back races in Snowshoe to finish her rookie season on top
“What just happened. Oh my god, I don’t get it.”
Vali Höll was as stunned as everyone watching. After winning her first elite World Cup race in Snowshoe on Wednesday, she entered Saturday’s second race of the doubleheader needing help to take the overall title: She’d need to win, and the impeccable Myriam Nicole to take fourth or worse.
Höll took care of the first part, laying down another near-perfect run on the punishing course in West Virginia to take the hot seat. But Nicole, the World Champion, was on a mistake free run that would have likely put her in a medal position on the day. Höll had no expectations of potentially taking an overall title going into the day, but then Nicole slipped on the very last bend of the course, losing roughly 10 seconds in the process and ultimately crossing the line in seventh place.
Höll seemed to struggle to comprehend what had just happened: At 19 years old, in her first season elite downhill racing season, she had won the overall.
“I would be happy if I get a top five result and fly home and rest for winter, work on next year,” Höll said after the race. “But this was totally unexpected. Oh my goodness.”
What had been a rollercoaster season for Höll ends with a career high. She had seemingly struggled at times with the pressure of being a young, heralded new rider in the sport, but a breakthrough win on Wednesday suggested she had found her confidence.
Still, no one saw this coming, not even from a two-time junior world champion and junior World Cup overall winner. Höll herself had modest goals entering the year.
“I was like, ‘Yeah let’s start my first World Cup season, and cruise into it.’ And it was a bit harder than expected but I just kept going,” Höll said. “Then this happened. The U.S. is treating me really nicely.”
Höll finishes the year with two World Cup wins, a World Cup silver medal in Leogang, and a win at Crankworx Innsbruck. By any measure, her season was an unmitigated success. And Höll is only going to come back faster, hungrier and even more sure of herself.
“I won my first World Cup on Wednesday, but it didn’t really feel like I won it. The next day at practice I had the same insecurity like I always have,” Höll said. “But then I was like, ‘Actually I can do it.’ I’ve been there at the beginning of the season. I can do it again.”