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Fleckenstein regaining killer instinct

Ski racer seeking stronger second runs after holding on for first win of the season



Stefanie Fleckenstein has been more than effective in getting herself in a position to win this season.

So there's both a little regret and fair bit of relief that she held on to capture her first victory of the season in the giant slalom at Panorama on Dec. 19.

The 18-year-old Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum had previously had a strong first run in the slalom at Mount Norquay roughly two weeks prior, but a challenging second run knocked her down the podium to settle for third.

"It was really exciting to get a GS win because I've had a lot of leads after the first run and I've had some problems holding the lead after the second run," she said. "Coming down and still holding that position was really exciting and gave me a lot of confidence for the next series that I'm going to now (in Nakiska)."

On other occasions this year, Fleckenstein has found herself near the top of the pack, but said she's experienced some issues holding onto the position, or even ditching it for something higher.

"It's just been nerves, mostly, and thinking too far ahead when I just need to focus on what's happening right then and racing," she said. "I managed to pull it together for that one day so that was exciting."

And on that day, Fleckenstein was ahead, leading after every competitor took a first run down the hill. Her nearest competitor was Amelia Smart, sitting 0.14 seconds back. Though Smart, a Panorama local, got the best of Fleckenstein the second time around, it was by just 0.02 seconds, allowing the West Vancouver resident to retain top spot.

With a less-than-ideal starting spot, Fleckenstein said she benefitted from a helpful course.

"It was just kind of a regular Panorama day. The snow was really good, so that really helped starting 30th. There was barely a groove on the track. But other than that, it was just pretty basic racing conditions — no weather, no nothing," she said.

Fleckenstein explained her offseason was stacked with activities both on and off of the snow to help her come out strong this year after feeling the effects of a cramped timetable in 2014-15. She's more than happy with the changes she made at this point and feels poised for a big second half as 2016 rolls on.

"Last year I had a lot of problems partway through the season with my fitness. This summer, I focused a lot on working out off the snow and moving into September and October, working on getting as much training in as possible to work on my consistency so I could start finishing more and getting more results, putting more points down," she said. "It's been a huge difference. The amount I'm able to turn my skis compared to last year is amazing."

A little further down the line, Fleckenstein has her eye on representing Canada at the FIS Alpine World Junior Ski Championships in Sochi, Russia from Feb. 25 to March 5. She's looking to use her surging confidence to continue her strong NorAm Cup and FIS race showings and, hopefully, put herself in the conversation to make the team.

"It would be a really good experience for me to race against the Europeans," she said.