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Slovenia: 2024 Pre-Season notes

Carniolan honey bee

It’s a pleasure composing the Slovenian WAWC team notes. This gang’s charm and subtle swagger, fortified by what I imagine is traditional Balkan grit, heralds a unique, even esoteric, 2024 season. Superb proven talent at different career stages, on a small team that consistently punches above its weight.

See 3 August Feature “Tech 2024—Three in Their Prime” for Ana Bucik’s story. Tina Robnik and Neja Dvornik are rebuilding after injury and unproductive seasons. Will keep an eye on them as racing proceeds. Here we check out the three primary runners.

Ilka Stuhec

Let’s cut to the chase: Ilka Stuhec’s 2017 season is one of WAWC’s greatest 2-Discipline Overall title challenges. Looking back six years is heretical for limp sensibilities—sorry, and find me a better Speed seasonal performance since. Ilka turns 33 in November.

2017 EOS Overall 2nd 1325 points. (Shiffrin 1st 1643; Goggia 3d 1197. Wide EOS podium margins.)

DH 1st – 8 starts – 4x1st; 2x3d; 5th; 8th

SG 2nd – 7 starts – 2x1st; 2nd; 3d; 7th; 5th; 22nd

AC 1st - 3 starts – 1st; 2nd; 3d

GS 34th; SL 35th.

2017 World Championships – DH 1st; SG 11th

2017 – WAWC 15 Speed starts: 6x1st; 2nd; 3x3d; 4xT10; errant 22nd.

Ilka’s an unabashed Speed human—and still took 2017’s Alpine Combined title. Plus Worlds DH gold to boot.

October 2017 training crash ACL left knee 2018 OFS and of course PyeongChang.

2019 EOS Overall 10th

DH 4th – 7 starts – 1st; 2nd; 3d; 2xT6th; 14th; DNF (late Feb injured knee OFS; no surgery, I believe)

SG 11th – 5 starts – 1st; 10th; 14th; 22nd; DNF

2019 World Championships – DH 1st; SG 8th; AC 10th. Talk about a rebound.

IMO/fact Ilka Stuhec is the WAWC’s 3d/4th best/most talented Downhiller 2015 to now. Vonn burned DH through 2018; Goggia lit her fuse 2017 (SG & GS as well); Schmidhofer and Suter top notch. Except for Lindsey’s 5 seasonal wins in 2016, no one topped Ilka’s 4 until Sofia’s 5 this 2023 campaign.

Stuhec ground it out 2020 through 2022, then burned 2023.

2020 – 2022 DH totals: 24 starts – 6xT10; 11xT20; 5xT30; 2xT40

2023 EOS - Overall 11th. DH 2nd – 9 starts – 2x1st; 2x2nd; 4xT10 (4th); 12th

204 Career WAWC starts. 75 EC starts. Around 70 FIS starts, including a number of SL & GS early on.

Tech dropped before 2008 WC debut, except for a few races 2017. (Kind of odd.)

I assume 2023’s achievement will keep her aboard for 2025/Worlds, and for 2026/Olympics if she’s feeling it. An Olympic medal would round out her career very nicely.

Ilka’s a gimme for 2024 EOS DH T5. Defending 2nd will be tough—Suter’s Cortina wreck cost two starts; Johnson and Weidle will be flooring it late season; Puchner and Gisin are itching to rip; Mikaela will probably ramp up Speed; I again beat Ester’s drum.

OTOH, EOS Ilka was 240 points clear of Corinne in 3d, who was less than 100 points ahead of Fede in 14th! So Stuhec and Goggia were their own class. Sofia posted 5 wins, 3 seconds, and a DNF. Ilka finished every race, but with a 12th and a few humble T10s ended up almost 200 points behind. Ilka or Corinne could take the 2024 DH title if Goggia falters, which I don’t see happening. So if Ilka skis this season as well as she did last, and 7th or so is her weakest run, she’ll be EOS DH 2nd or 3d, depending upon Corinne’s record. Breezy, Kira, Ester and possibly Mikaela can challenge, but they’re not yet in Ilka’s class.

After all this, I say Ilka Stuhec will win 2024 DH title. Her technical skill is slightly better than Goggia’s, I think. And this advantage is locked back in post-injury. Sofia carves a feral edge for her EOS winning margin, relies upon it for several decisive seconds each season. I sense this edge will slip—not catastrophically, but enough that Ilka’s consistent groove will get her the globe.

Meta Hrovat

Meta’s departure after 2022 was semi-tragic for WAWC fans. Not sure what the deal was—sensed early burn-out? Injury recovery? Angling for better sponsorship? Who cares. She’s back! One of WAWC’s most delightful characters. AFAICT, perhaps the circuit’s mellowest ego. Only a wretch could oppose her success.

WAWC EOS GS 2018-2022. (SL unramped; no WC Speed)

2023 Inactive

2022 GS 20th- 7 starts – 3xT10; 16th; 3xDNF

2021 GS 9th- 5 starts – 2x3d; 5th; 6th; 9th

2020 GS 9th- 6 starts – 3d; 6th; 10th; 2xT14; DNF

2019 GS 14th – 6 starts – 5th; 7th; 8th; 2xDNF

2018 GS 11th- 8 starts – 3d; 8th; 4xT20; 2xT30 Excellent WC season at 19/20 years old.

European Cup EOS 2016 & 2017 – All starts GS. Superb GS talent’s steady development.

2018 EOS GS 6th – 6 starts – 2x1st; 4th; 2x10th; DNF

2017 EOS GS 6th – 9 starts – 2nd; 3d; 2x4th; 6th; 2xT14; 2xDNF

Hrovat’s return strengthens what is perennially WAWC’s most competitive Discipline. She’s a really good egg—ebullient, confident, very talented.

Given what is probably a sweet Head contract, Meta’s geared right now for a long run, not for just the long run. Six or seven or so solid seasons. The question is whether she tries to pry open SL, which so far hasn’t worked, or to go for Speed. I’d think her coaches/team would prefer Tech expansion both for schedule convenience and for relatively safer races. But she may have the Speed bug. There’s time, however—plenty of time to hone GS and to give SL another shot if she/team thinks it worthwhile. Personally, I imagine if SL was a legit hope then we’d know it by now. Perhaps she'll run EC Speed for a season?

Meta’s super-spunky. If she gets a knack for DH over SG or vice versa, she may specialize with that only, not risking knees etc. if not fully feeling the secondary event. GS and SG could be a fine regimen, with the occasional crack at less demanding DH tracks. Then see what she grows into. Easing more fully into SL also an option.

Solidifying GS the big thing this year, though. I’ll make a conservative call: 2024 EOS GS T12. 3xT5 offset by a DNF or two. This may be unfair, but between a year off and GS’s superb field, cracking T10 will be a chore. Hope I’m wrong.

Andreja Slokar

Made big splash early in WAWC. Solid EC run-up. Andreja Slokar (turning 26 in Oct 2023) excelled in 2022 SL, winning the season’s final race, in just her second WAWC campaign. Concurrent with decent 2021 WAWC SL results, Andreja decimated 2021 EC SL: 8 starts -- 2x1st; 2x2nd; 3xT10; DNF. Alas, an October 2022 training knee injury scotched WAWC 2023.

2021 Europa Cup EOS Overall 2nd. SL 1st.

2023 WAWC OFS Left ACL tear…

2022 WAWC EOS SL 8th – 7 starts – 1st; 4th; 2x10th; 15th; 24th; DNF

2021 WAWC EOS SL 19th – 7 starts – 2xT10; 2xT20; 23d; DNF; DNQ

2022 Olympics – SL 5th Excellent!

2021 World Championships – SL 5th Great! Performs under pressure.

Slovenian National Championships – 2 most recent meets

2022 – 4 starts – DH 2nd; SG 1st; GS 3d; Alpine Combined 1st.

2021 – 4 starts – SG 23d; GS 5th; SL 1st; Alpine Combined 4th

FIS – 2 most recent/full Discipline seasons

2020 SL – 6 starts – 1st; 3d; 9th; 3xDNF. GS – 8 starts - 2xT10; 3xT18; 38th; 2xDNF

2019 SL – 8 starts – 2x2nd; 3x3d; 3x4th. GS 6 starts – 2nd; 6th; 7th; 10th; DNF; DNQ

High public/team profile; consistent strong results. Slokar’s her team’s SL young gun to Hrovat’s GS. Indeed, Andreja’s 2021 to 2022 WC EOS Slalom improvement was nearly meteoric. From 19th to 8th, with a win, 3xT10, and a single DNF. A superb 5th at Beijing made it a very good year. Then she was so poised to follow up the breakout. But that’s how the cookie crumbles; 26 for this coming season, so long as the knee’s fully healed and summer training went well, Slokar’s in fine shape.

Given her EC SL dominance and 2022’s WC EOS SL 8th, I think Andreja’s solid 2024 SL T12/13. It’ll be a partial recovery year, I reckon. By 2025 she’ll be EOS SL T7 for a year or two, then in EOS podium contention for 4+ seasons. Perhaps she’s truly special and hits T5 2025 and the podium scrum thereafter. Perhaps. But unless she settles in as a SL specialist, Slokar will continue to run GS as well I’d think. (So far, Speed isn’t in the WC picture, at all.) She’ll need a couple seasons to find her consistent groove. Stay healthy, and she’ll take an EOS SL podium or two before she's done. Andreja's record suggests she could hit 12-15 career wins, mostly in the post-Shiffrin era.


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