The conditions at Planica – where rain made the surface of the ski-flying hill extremely slippery – were said to be the most difficult of the Red Bull 400 season. Even more so than the intense heat at some of the meetings earlier in the year.
Nevertheless, out of the 898 competitors from 15 countries at the start area, all of the race favourites made it through the qualifications, and many others managed to achieve their goal – ticking ‘reaching the top of the Planica ski-flying hill’ off their bucket list.
In the individual races, the ladies were the first to complete their competition. After the in-run, a group of five left the crowd behind. Poland’s Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik was in the lead the whole time. Barbara Trunkelj from Slovenia kept breathing down her neck for a while, but the Pole accelerated in the end and achieved a 10-second lead, with a time of 6m 41s. Another 10 seconds behind, the Slovenia's Ana Čufer (7m 01s) completed the podium.
“These 400 metres were the toughest in my life! I already ran at Red Bull 400, but no competition can match Planica! The weather was terrible, that’s true, but running makes people happy, and the rain couldn't stop the party. It only made an already difficult competition even more difficult,” said the extremely satisfied winner.
Everything was a bit closer in the men’s division. In the lower part, the fastest in the group were the Slovenians Matjaž Mikloša, Nejc Kuhar, Luka Kovačič and the Austrian Jakob Mayer, but at the transition to the in-run Kovačič sped up, followed by Kuhar. Mikloša and Mayer were left to fight for third place. Approaching the top, it seemed that Kuhar was going to overtake Kovačič, but Kovačič sensed his rival's approach, accelerated to his limit and managed to keep the lead until the finish. In the fight for the third place, Jakob Mayer edged out local hero Matjaž Mikloša.
A thrilled Luka Kovačič said: “This competition was the toughest, but also the sweetest one, as it ended with victory. In the upper part I might have celebrated victory a little too early, and Nejc almost caught me, and thus I had to give my best in the last sprint. This year Planica definitely set fire to my legs.”