Switzerlandâ€™s Marco Odermatt won gold in the menâ€™s giant slalom at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday, fending off a superb effort from Zan Kranjec of Slovenia. Odermatt finished with a combined time of 2min 9.35sec, putting him 0.19sec ahead of runner-up Kranjec with Franceâ€™s Mathieu Faivre taking bronze. The first run took place in driving snow with poor visibility but the decision to delay the second run by 75 minutes paid off, with better conditions producing a thrilling battle.
â€œItâ€™s unbelievable. It was a hard day, with the conditions, with such a long wait between the two runs,â€ said the 24-year-old Odermatt. â€œIt was more than five hours for me, it was such a long time to rethink everything and it was hard to stay focused. I tried to sleep some minutes in between. I actually never dreamt about it but now it still feels like a dream.â€
As the overall World Cup leader, Odermatt was the clear favourite having had four wins and a runner-up spot in five races in giant slalom this season. But Kranjec, who finished fourth in Pyeongchang four years ago, produced a magnificent second run to put himself top of the podium. Austriaâ€™s Manuel Feller took a risky, aggressive line and skied out, and Italian Luca de Aliprandini struck a gate.
Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway almost missed a gate, sliding wide and although he recovered to finish he lost valuable time that left him in eighth. Austriaâ€™s Stefan Brennsteiner had finished just 0.4sec behind Odermatt in the first run but he too paid the price for almost missing a gate in the second.
Odermatt had to keep his cool on the second run and he did just that with his smooth, classic technique delivering a time of 1min 6.42sec, which was 0.59sec slower than Kranjecâ€™s second effort but just enough to secure him his first Olympic medal. Kranjecâ€™s run meant that the Swiss could not afford to be too conservative but his aggression was controlled enough to avoid the errors that had plagued so many of the challengers.
â€œI really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal,â€ Odermatt said. â€œItâ€™s difficult because you can lose everything but today it paid off.â€
Odermattâ€™s triumph continues an impressive Beijing Games for the Swiss Alpine team following Beat Feuzâ€™s gold in the menâ€™s downhill and Lara Gut-Behramiâ€™s victory in the womenâ€™s giant slalom. The Swiss also have three bronze medals in womenâ€™s races and are top of the Alpine medals table. There was an excellent fourth-place finish for 24-year-old American River Radamus but disappointment for French pair Thibaut Favrot and Alexis Pinturault, who had to settle for fifth and sixth.
Kranjecâ€™s disappointment at seeing Odermatt pip him to gold was tempered by his delight at getting on the podium. â€œI donâ€™t fully understand it yet. In Korea I was fourth so you never know if you will get another chance to fight for a medal,â€ he said. â€œAfter the first run I said maybe itâ€™s over, I donâ€™t have any more chance. But my second run was really good. Itâ€™s unbelievable.â€ (Reuters)