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Riotous Youth: Aicher and Elfman

Two mighty scamps to watch.

Emma Aicher (19) is Germany’s budding hope for multi-disciplinary excellence, which vanished when Vicky Rebensburg retired September 2020. (IMO, Rebensburg on-form made many competitors seem turgid and squat.) With the DSV (Germany’s national skiing organization) behind her, Emma has great resources, and much expected of her. (National teams’ sensibilities re their young athletes would be a complex, contentious discussion, I bet. Fire away in Comments, if you have the skinny. Good Chat topic, too.)

Some representative results World Cup: DH 6 starts 1x15th, 5xT30; SG 6 starts 1x5th, 2xT30, 2xDNF; 18 SL starts 1xT10, 5xT15, 8xDNQ/DNF. European Cup: 12 SL starts 2x1st , 1 podium, 4xDNF; 10 GS starts 5xT40, 5xDNF. Pending more context/comparison with others, I’ll venture these are middling for a strong 19-year-old prospect.

Or are they? WC stars often excel in the Junior Worlds on their way up. Emma sure did at Panorama in March 2022, taking 3x2nd SL, GS, DH; 4th SG. Superb results at a high-pressure meet. Turning up for big races goes a long way re career longevity. Emma’s Speed strength here makes me wonder if she’ll settle into the fast lane after a couple more WC seasons.

Emma’s WC top-30 ranking in three disciplines bodes…well? I’m reluctantly skeptical. Her desire, work ethic, touch on the snow, etc. may be great, but I think she’d have more top-15 WC finishes. I may be unfairly comparing her to Lara Gut-Behrami's and Alice Robinson's teenage highlights. Emma has 8/9 years until a ski racer’s prime is thought to begin, so I’m probably being ignorant/harsh. A second full WC season will develop her story.

Emma's raced a lot.

European Cup December 2020 – December 2021

SL starts 11: 2x1st; 3d; 9th; 3 close to T20; 4xDNF 6 venues

GS starts: 10: 5xT40; 5 DNF 6 venues

Speed starts: 0

Total EC starts: 22

Junior Worlds

19-24 January 2023 St. Anton AUT SL 4th; GS 5th; SG 4th; DH 6th

7–10 March 2022 Panorama BC SL 2nd; GS 2nd; DH 2nd. ; SG4th

2-10 March 2021 Bansko BUL SL 11th; GS DNF 2nd

Total JRW starts: 10

World Cup

2022 season 9 starts. 8SL: 4xT30; 4xDNF/Q. 1GS:DNQ

2023 23 starts 10SL: 1xT10; 3xT15; 4xDNF/Q. 1GS:DNQ. 6SG: 1x5th; 3xT30; 2xDNF.

6DH: 1x15th; 4xT25

Total WC starts: 32

Total starts: 64 at elite level December 2020 – March 2023

FIS 30 starts November 2019 – March 2022 Won 7 of 7 2023 SL/GS/SG starts about even; a few AC

94 total starts at FIS+ level November 2019-March 2023

She averaged 24 FIS+ starts for 4 years from age 15. This sounds fairly standard to me. Superb 2022 FIS Speed results presage WC ramp-up? SL was Emma’s strength initially; now finding Speed more her thing, I suspect. SL competition is fierce--if Mikaela skips a few Tech dates, SL heavies will go all-out, as well as primarily Speed folk dropping in for GS. Eg. competing against Ragnhild, Lara, Marta, etc. I think/hope 2024 will be exclusively WC for Emma, so she’s always racing best competition.

Being all-arounder is a heavy lift. Emma Aicher will be interesting to follow—she's an excellent racer, no question. I just hope she’s not driven too hard too early. I really think the DSV's expecting her to run 4 disciplines for at least a few years. She may well be down with that; WC athletes expect to endure insane exertion and demands. I wish her the best.

Hanna Elfman (20) Aicher was touted on-air in November as a major prospect. Elfman quietly excelled, kicking off Levi 2xSL 9th and 11th, then Killington (11th); a sensational 4th at Sestriere on 11 December sealed it: this girl’s really good. By season’s end race commentators were with the program—particularly after her World’s 10th. And get this: she finished 10th in SL for the season! (11 SL starts: 5 x top-10; 3 x top-15; 3 x DNF) Hanna has work to do on GS; she's an easy pick for SL excellence. And although WC GS has been rough, her EC results are okay, and FIS GS finishes very strong. With just 3 SG starts (EC) and no DH, certainly she’ll be a Tech devotee. Speed may begin in several years. I think a racer this good should run her natural path for as long as she wants.

Most of her career FIS-level and above results.

World Cup

2022 SL - 5 starts -- 15th; 2xDNF; 2xDNQ. GS - 7 starts -- 2xT25; 26th; 2xDNF; 2xDNQ

2023 SL - 11 starts -- 5xT10; 3xT15; 3xDNF

European Cup

2020 SL - 8 starts -- 2xT20; 2xT25; 31st; 3xDNF. GS - 7 starts -- 3xT10; 11th; 2xT25; 1xDNF.

2021 SL - 7 starts -- 3xT10; 2xT20; 28th; 1xDNF. GS - 10 starts -- 2nd; 5xT10; 3xT25; 40th.

2022 SL - 3 starts -- 3xT0. GS - 3 starts -- 5th; 15th; DNF

Shows up for big races.

Junior World Championships:

2021-- GS 1st; SG 4th; (SL DNF). 2023 -- SL 1st; GS 1st.

World Championships

2023 -- SL 10th

FIS 39 starts January 2019 - March 2023 SL/GS starts about even; a few SG.

12 podiums; 17 T10. Solid.

109 starts (approx) FIS+ level

(I rely upon fis-ski's data for all racers' results cited in WAWC, usually counting race/line-by-race/line in the Calendar & Results category for each year/event. This is eye-glazing, but I hope the most accurate. All numbers, I'm confident, are very close to the truth.)

Hanna Elfman will be SL season podium by 2026 at the latest. Should have 3 x top-6 in 2024, and…I’ll say 1 podium. Timid predictions for one so promising, but with Nullmeyer, Popovic, Hilzinger et al – hungry young people with more experience – Moltzan and Liensberger, not to mention the Norwegians and SL’s current perennial podium residents, the discipline’s gonna be wild and wooly, especially positions 4 through 9 for second-tier points. Speed disciplines are my favorite, but Tech’s flash needles me. GS is already way competitive, and now SL’s super feisty. If anyone with 13 WC finishes can break out, Hanna can.


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