Odermatt silences critics with Olympic grand slalom gold

Luke PHILLIPS, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 13 2022 05:36 PM

Gold medallist Marco Odermatt of Switzerland poses with his medal as he stands in between silver medallist Zan Kranjec of Slovenia and bronze medallist Mathieu Faivre of France during the victory ceremony. Denis Balibouse, Reuters.
Gold medallist Marco Odermatt of Switzerland poses with his medal as he stands in between silver medallist Zan Kranjec of Slovenia and bronze medallist Mathieu Faivre of France during the victory ceremony. Denis Balibouse, Reuters.

YANQING, China -- Switzerland's Marco Odermatt finally lived up to expectations by holding his nerve in snow and fog to win gold in the men's Olympic giant slalom on Sunday.

Odermatt put the disappointment of two underwhelming outings in speed events behind him to clock a combined total of 2min 09.35sec over the two legs down the "Ice River" course in Yanqing, north of Beijing.

Slovenia's Zan Kranjec claimed silver thanks to the fastest second leg, 0.19sec off the pace, while reigning world champion Mathieu Faivre of France took bronze, 1.34sec behind the winner.

"It was a hard day, with the conditions, with such a long wait between the two runs," said Odermatt.

"It was more than five hours for me, it was such a long time to re-think everything and it was hard to stay focused. I tried to sleep some minutes in between."

Odermatt had come into the Beijing Games as current World Cup overall leader and one of the big favourites.

But he has disappointed on the artificial snow in China, finishing seventh in the downhill and skiing out of the super-G, a race in which he was expected to challenge for the Olympic title.

- 'Risked everything' -
The giant slalom was a different ballgame, however, and only eight racers got within two seconds of Odermatt, many struggling with the heavy snow and increasingly foggy conditions that drastically reduced visibility.

"It was challenging, I really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal," he said.

"It's difficult because you can lose everything, but today it paid off."

The 24-year-old Swiss racer, who has won four of five World Cup giant slalom races this season, had been fastest down the first leg, just four-hundredths of a second ahead of Stefan Brennsteiner.

But the Austrian was one of three big names in the top eight, alongside Austrian outsider Manuel Feller and Italy's world silver medallist Luca de Aliprandini, to ski out.

Norway's silver medallist from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, Henrik Kristoffersen, went into the second run in fourth, but he slid wide on one turn as he pushed, losing more than a second in the process to eventually finish eighth.

American River Radamus came in fourth, just ahead of French duo Thibaut Favrot and two-time Olympic bronze medallist Alexis Pinturault, who tied for fifth.

While all French eyes were on Pinturault, Faivre was elated about making the podium.

"It's been a long day from this morning to the second run... it was very tough conditions with the surface, but I finished the day with a bronze medal and I'm so happy with it," he said.

Radamus was in no doubt the right person bagged gold.

"Marco’s the best in the world right now so I think he deserved to win today, what with the pressure he had on his shoulders there," he said.

© Agence France-Presse