Kristoffersen closes out ski World Champs with slalom gold

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen closed the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Courchevel Meribel in thrilling style with a sensational come from behind performance to win the Men’s Slalom gold medal from Greece’s AJ Ginnis and Italian Alex Vinatzer.

Three times the overall World Cup slalom champion, a world champs slalom win had eluded Kristoffersen until this point, but one of the all-time great second runs delivered him the gold.

Sitting down in 16th place after the completion of the first runs in France, he threw everything at the second run and skied right on the very edge on the fast, rutted course to produce an incredible time that nobody else could get within half a second of.

Kristoffersen sat in the leader’s chair for a nail-biting 30 minutes and watched on as racer after racer failed to better his time, finally celebrating a remarkable victory after the last man on the hill, Austria’s Manuel Feller, faltered. He took the victory from Greece’s first0ever world champs medalist Ginnis by 0.20-seconds, with Vinatzer 0.38-seconds adrift in third.

“So far this is the best one medal of my career,” said Kristoffersen, 28. “Now it’s done, I’m pretty calm. It’s worse standing in the finish and waiting than standing at the top. I’ve done both plenty of times, but the finish is worse because you’ve done your run and you can’t change anything.”

Earlier in the week, Marco Odermatt added a second gold medal to his FIS Alpine World Ski Championships collection by winning Friday’s Giant Slalom on Meribel’s L’Éclipse piste. He pushed Swiss team-mate Loïc Meillard into second with a flying second run.

Taking his fine World Cup form into the race, Odermatt posted a combined time of 2m 34.08s; 0.32s ahead of Meillard and 0.4s faster than Austria’s Marco Schwarz, who had topped the standings after the first run down the icy course.

The gold medal is Odermatt’s second of the championships, it also makes him the first Swiss skier to win multiple golds since 1987 and only the fifth skier to win both GS and Downhill disciplines at a single championships.

Last weekend, Odermatt skied the “perfect” race to emphatically win his first-ever senior FIS Alpine World Ski Championships medal in the blue-ribband men’s downhill race in Courchevel, France, on Sunday, beating great rival Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway into second place.

Starting 10th on a difficult course, his flow and control on an icy track riddled with, shadows, blind rises and hard-to-see bumps were phenomenal and his time of 1m 47.05s was sensationally fast and when Kilde, winner of five of the eight downhill World Cups this season and the pre-race favourite, came in +0.48 seconds behind, Odermatt’s historic victory was guaranteed.

That was Odermatt’s first major downhill triumph after the Swiss star has clocked seven World Cup second places in the discipline, often behind Kilde, and marks his very first World Champs medal after previously winning the overall World Cup title and Olympic gold in 2022.

“It was the perfect run for me, maybe the best downhill I’ve ever skied,” said Odermatt, 25. “I felt it was a perfect run. When you look and you know some fast skiers had already been down, I knew it was good.”

Alexis Pinturault meanwhile celebrated double medal success at his home resort with a memorable gold medal in the alpine combined – his second individual world title – and then a bronze in the Super G.

Pinturault came into the first men’s 2023 event without a 2022–23 FIS World Cup win to his name, but he was fired up to impress his home fans and topped the standings after the first Super G leg. He only enjoyed a 0.06s advantage over Austrian Marco Schwarz with Switzerland’s Loïc Meillard in 12th place while Swiss Marco Odermatt and Italy’s Dominik Paris both failed to record a time.

Norwegian Atle Lie McGrath and Meillard posted excellent slalom times in the second leg, however Pinturault did just enough in third to deny Schwarz by 0.10s and secure his second individual world title. Austrian Raphael Haaser grabbed bronze with Meillard impressing in sixth.

Pinturault, 31, said: “It’s amazing. I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago. I really tried to attack (Super-G run), but always on the good side of the limit, so I could handle the whole way down without big mistakes and that was the main goal. I think I made not an amazing slalom but a good and strong slalom especially with the number one, because it’s really difficult when it’s tricky to know where you can push and where you have to control a bit more.”

In the men’s Super G, Pinturault followed up his alpine combined gold with a classy bronze medal 0.26s behind shock Canadian winner James Crawford and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde with Swiss Marco Odermatt fourth and compatriot Loïc Meillard eighth as Italian Dominik Paris was thankfully able to walk away after a heavy crash.

Kiwi Alice Robinson looked set for a medal late on in Tuesday’s women’s Super G, however a small error on the last few gates saw her slip down to seventh place with Italian Sofia Goggia finishing 11th.

Goggia was the overwhelming favourite to take home gold in Sunday’s women’s downhill final after scoring big wins on the World Cup circuit. However, she made a big mistake in the high-speed Roc de Fer close out and straddled a gate, leading her to be disqualified from the race that was won instead by Swiss Jasmine Flury.

On the ski jumping World Cup circuit, Germany’s Andreas Wellinger followed up his first win in almost six years in Lake Placid with a second win on the bounce this weekend in Rasnov, Romania.

Wellinger won the HS 97m normal hill competition in Rasnov by a narrow margin of 240.4 points to 240.2 ahead of the Slovenian Ziga Jelar, with fellow German Karl Geiger completing the podium on 237.9 points.

The result moves Wellinger up into the top six of overall World Cup standings for the first time this season.

Header image: Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) during the men’s Slalom race of FIS ski alpine world cup. Credit: Erich Spiess / Red Bull Content Pool

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