Photo credit: GEPA
Please, keep this name in mind: Magdalena Egger. Because this young Austrian skier has achieved outstanding results in her junior years, and she’s building confidence on the World Cup circuit.
Ski Racing Media caught up with “Mäggy” while she is training in South America. We discussed her Junior Worlds medals record and her plans for the coming season. But first, let’s refresh our memory concerning the Junior World Championships.
A real launchpad for champions
The FIS Junior Alpine World Ski Championships (JWSC) were first held in Auron, France, in 1982. Now they take place every year. Certainly, not all junior champs have blossomed into ski stars. However, many of today’s best skiers claimed medals at JWSC.
Olympic and World Cup champion, Swiss Marco Odermatt, got five golds at the JWSC in 2018: he won all races except Slalom, which went to another 2022 Olympic winner, Clément Noël. Legends Marcel Hirscher, Benjamin Raich, Beat Feuz, Alexis Pinturault, Maria Höfl-Riesch and Anna Veith, were all medalists at JWSC, before becoming major players on the World Cup.
Superstar Mikaela Shiffrin got her medal at JWSC in 2011, a bronze in Slalom. Ted Ligety also conquered a Slalom podium at JWSC in 2004. Lindsey Vonn won three medals at this event, but the most decorated American junior skier is Julia Mancuso, with five gold and two bronze medals. She won them between 2001 and 2004, and her most prolific edition was in 2002, with victories in Downhill, Giant Slalom and Combined. For the United States, the most recent champions at JWSC are Benjamin Ritchie (born 2000), winner in Slalom in 2021, and River Radamus (1998), gold in Super-G and Giant Slalom in 2019
Records are made to be broken
Until March 2022, Norwegian tech specialist Henrik Kristoffersen and Austrian Sabine Ginther were the most successful skiers at JWSC, with six gold and two silver medals each. Kristoffersen quickly converted to winning in the “adult races,” as he said, some years ago. Ginther succeeded in the early nineties, with 14 WC podiums, six victories, and second place in the World Cup overall ranking in 1991.
Eight junior medals is an impressive record, considering the limited time window an athlete is competitive at JSWC. Skiers are most competitive in their final year as a junior.
However, the medals record was beaten last season by 21-year-old Magdalena Egger, a multi-discipline skier from Lech Am Arlberg. Egger finished her junior career with six gold, two silver and a bronze medal for nine total Junior World Ski Championship medals.
Magdalena started her medal collection early, with three golds, when she was 19. Egger was the fastest in each women’s race at the 2020 JWSC in Narvik, Norway. Unfortunately, after the Downhill, Super-G and Alpine Combined, the other events were canceled due to the pandemic causing everybody to be urgently sent home to their native countries.
Questions asked and answers given
SRM: Magdalena, what memories do you have about Narvik 2020?
Egger: It was so surprising for me. I remember going there after many bad races in the months before. I was racing in the European Cup, and it was hard. There were postponements and cancellations. The schedule became tight. At that time, I felt like I was learning new lessons every day but didn’t have enough time to process them. So, before leaving for Norway, I enjoyed resting for two days at home; that was relieving for me, relaxing and calmed me down. And I went to the Junior World Champs without any expectations. I did the first Downhill training only to train; I didn’t know if I would compete. That season I did only a little speed, so it was just a training day for me. Suddenly, from nothing working, everything started to work perfectly all the time. So, it was shocking and also emotional.
SRM: Taking a step back, how was your path from skiing as a child until that season?
Egger: It was not always straight ahead; there were some ups and downs. But in general, it all worked out quite well. I had sound systems around me, with the ski club, school, regional team and Federation. I remember when I was in high school at Stams (ski academy), my big goal was to race the World Cup before I ended my studies. And I made my WC debut in my last school year. It was amazing to achieve that.
I have many people to thank, and they know who they are. In Vorarlberg, we have a small team that works really well. Many national team athletes now come from this region, despite being small, and it seems that the reason is that the effort made then is now paying off. Amanda Salzgeber, Schöpf, Kappauer, Nussbaumer, and Niederwieser, were with me on this team and we all made the national team.
SRM: One year after Narvik 2020, your performances were not at the same level at Bansko JWSC (bronze medal in Super-G). What happened in 2021?
Egger: It was my third championship, as I was already at Val di Fassa in 2019. At Bansko 2021, I got one medal, but neither DH nor AC races were in the program. It was a shortened edition. Tech discipline didn’t go well, but it was a good experience.
SRM: The record-breaking series arrived last January at Panorama, Canada, with three golds (DH, SG, GS) and two silvers (AC, TE). Please tell us about it.
Egger: Panorama was crazy. I think I had tears in my eyes every day of the week. I was enjoying skiing so much. It was very much fun, really incredible. And also other skiers of our team did well.
SRM: You have stepped on a podium at the JWSC nine times, with six victories, two seconds, and one third place. The media once asked you about your feelings, breaking a record. What is your relationship with statistics and records?
Egger: Well, the Austrian media talked a lot about it but didn’t ask about my feelings. They just predicted and announced a bright future for me. That was too much. Sometimes I thought, hey guys, chill. They didn’t know my strengths and weaknesses. They didn’t ski that day with me. About my feelings, I don’t pay much attention to stats, but achieving these results means a lot to me because I know what I’ve done to achieve them, all the work I did. This is the meaningful part, not the record itself.
SRM: Where do you keep your medals now?
Egger: They are home, in my room. Sometimes I need them for photo shoots or meetings. I couldn’t put them on a wall or in a frame yet. I keep them aside; sometimes, I look at them, have memories, and think forward.
SRM: You have several starts in World Cup. Your debut was on January 14th, 2020, in Flachau, Austria, and since then, you have raced Slalom nine times on the World Cup circuit. Given your results in speed and GS, one could ask, why only Slalom?
Egger: That’s a good question. It was lucky timing for me to have my first World Cup start. There was one vacant spot on the team. I had good results at FIS and European Cup races, although I only did two. The Head Coach, Christian Mitterer, told us that if you get a top ten in EC, we could discuss WC internal qualification and racing. But he stood for me because he told me I didn’t have to go through this qualification system and wanted me to race WC. He asked if I wanted to race in Flachau, and I said yes! I want it! My debut went quite well; I had bib 66 and ranked 37th. The coaches told me, you are on the right path. You will get more chances (in WC).
Then the following season, I scored points in Levi at my third race. The path was directing me to Slalom. It looked like this was the discipline where I could break through and build myself a spot. I had the opportunity to do internal qualification for the Giant Slalom in Sölden last year, but I missed it. My results in GS weren’t that good until Panorama, which is why I only raced Slalom in World Cup, except in the Finals.
SRM: Please tell us about your attendance as Junior Champion at the WC Finals in March. How did you feel competing with the best 25 skiers of the season in Courchevel-Méribel?
Egger: That was my very first Final. I haven’t participated in any European Cup Finals yet (she also qualified as Junior Champ at WC Finals in 2020, but they were canceled). Racing at Finals was pretty exciting. Seeing where I stand compared to the best skiers in other disciplines besides Slalom was great. How far is it to the top? I could have a great experience there, especially in the Downhill race. I felt like today it’s my first Downhill ever. It was more than just gliding. There is a big difference between World Cup and other circuits in speed events, for courses, snow preparation, jumps, etcetera.
SRM: With so many strong disciplines, what is your strategy for the coming season?
Egger: We have a new Head Coach and a new team. I am in the WC3 group for skiers with three disciplines or more. We are 12 girls and we split. We have training possibilities for each discipline, and it’s’ quite nice for me, as they still want me to work on all disciplines in the preparation period. Later, we’ll do the season plan and decide how to handle it best. I think it’s always tricky for a multi-discipline skier to decide in March where to focus. You are better off getting into it and seeing where your path leads you.
SRM: So, what is your favorite discipline, if you have one?
Egger: Many people ask me this, but I don’t know how to answer. I cannot decide on one. I like to change. For me, the most fun is the mix. I love Slalom and Downhill, …but I wouldn’t want one month of just doing Slalom or just doing Downhill.
SRM: You now have a new technician. How is the work going with him?
Egger: Yes, it was a change by Head. Rudi Berger was my ski man through last year. I shared his work with Franziska Gritsch (who won the European Cup title last season). Rudi was previously with Marlies and Bernadette Schild. It’s not easy to get the support of a company ski man (in junior years), so I was happy to get Bernadette’s spot with a Head ski man when she quit. Now my new service is Christoph Atz. He worked with the Delago sisters. He is Italian. I am so happy with him; he does excellent work, prepares the skis well, and is kind and calm.
SRM: Do you prefer working with calm, quiet people?
Egger: Yes, definitely. I think that working and improving—it’s just possible for me when it’s quiet. I can’t focus with too energetic or loud people around me. That doesn’t mean that I am the quietest on the team. I think you can have a lot of fun with me, and I like to spend time with people and laugh. But I can separate work time and leisure time when I want quiet.
SRM: What do you like to do with your personal time?
Egger: I love doing sports, and I do many. Also, snowboarding—I do it sometimes in winter. And I like to be with my family and relax. I have a twin brother, Christoph. Same name as my new ski serviceman. I spent my entire childhood with him. He likes skiing but isn’t a ski racer; he doesn’t have a taste for it. We have a good relationship, but as twins, we never needed to do the same things, as they say, which is common with twins.
SRM: In November, there will be a Parallel at Lech-Zürs, your home mountain. Would you like to compete there?
Egger: I would love to. I did the internal qualification last year, but I missed my chance. It would be really exciting to be there this year. The race is in front of my home, almost. I didn’t do many GS Parallel races, never in the World Cup, obviously. I think Parallel—it’s a nice race to watch if the conditions are good.