At the World Cup slalom in Chamonix, AJ Ginnis achieved what no Greek had ever managed before: the outsider climbed to second place with a sensational second run – the success story of a comeback artist.
“It’s a dream!” said Alexander “AJ” Ginnis after becoming the first Greek in the history of alpine skiing to climbing onto a World Cup podium at the World Cup Slalom in Chamonix. “I’m 28 years old, I’ve had to work my ass off so many times, and to finally be able to do this is just wow. I don’t think I get it yet. It could be a few hours, maybe a few days until I realize what just happened.”
All competitors were happy for him, and his team lifted him on their shoulders and celebrated the “man of the day”, who by far outshined the actual winner, Ramon Zenhousen from Switzerland. Ginnis’ previous World Cup best was 11th, which was also the best finish by a Greek skier. Of the 44 World Cup slaloms he has competed in so far, he has only finished four.
Grew up on the coast
But it wasn’t just the fact that Ginnis, son of a Greek mother and an American father, comes from a country that is exotic for winter sports, but also that his career was marked by many serious injuries and he had to fight back again and again. “I grew up on the Greek coast. My father was a ski fanatic, and so was my family. We had a cabin on Mount Parnassus where we went every weekend,” Ginnis recalled after his biggest success. “When I was 12 my father moved to Austria, I moved with him, learned the language and how to ski race.”
Ginnis was so talented that he pursued a professional skiing career and at the age of 15, he moved to Vermont, USA, and attended a school specializing in skiing. At the age of 16, he won his first international race. But then his steep ascent was abruptly slowed down by a cruciate ligament tear. For the Olympic Games in Sochi, he could not qualify due to injury. The next stroke of fate followed: Ginni’s father died. With the help of a fundraiser, he managed to start in the World Cup for the first time in December 2014 in Madonna Di Campiglio. Two years later – at that time still for the US Ski Association – he got his first World Cup points at the same place as 26th.
Many hurdles and surgeries
Ginnis has been driving for his country of birth Greece since the 2020/2021 season – and successfully. In the very first winter under the new flag, there were more World Cup points. But then the next serious knee injury followed, which cost him the entire 2021/2022 season – corresponding to participation in the Olympic Games in Beijing for Greece.
Now he’s back. In December, Ginnis celebrated his comeback in the World Cup. Two months later, the – at least provisional – crowning achievement followed in Chamonix: from 23rd place after the first run, he pushed past almost all his competitors with a sensational drive to second place. “It has always been a crazy dream of ours to be the first Greek to stand on the podium. After so many hurdles, so many surgeries, it’s just unbelievable that it’s finally happening.”
Thanks to the US team
Ginnis also knew who to thank: “The US team made me the skier I am today, but unfortunately I needed special treatment because of my injuries,” he said. “After six surgeries I just needed to do things differently and skiing for Greece has given me that.”
The Alpine Ski World Championships begin in Courchevel and Meribel on February 6th. AJ Ginnis seems to be at his best at exactly the right time. Perhaps he will not only write World Cup history for Greece but soon World Championships as well.
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