JWSC: Alexis Pinturault (FRA) takes men’s giant slalom
The Junior World Championships in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, were kicked off Sunday with the men’s giant slalom and ladies’ first downhill training.
The men's and ladies competition and training runs place under bluebird skies and perfect but challenging conditions on the slope. Thanks to the pleasant weather the fans came in fairly large numbers and mostly lined up in the finish area to cheer on their favorite athletes.
The giant slalom course held up quite nicely even in the second run in the afternoon although the snow was soft in certain sections resulting in some ruts even after the first couple of guys. However, the slowly deteriorating course did not bother Pinturault, who already showed that he is skiing on top of his game in the first run when he put down the fastest time. He was a whopping eight tenths ahead of Kriechmayr after the first leg and secured the lead with a solid second run winning by .63 seconds over Kriechmayr and 1.09 over Faivre. This was the third consecutive victory for France in the giant slalom at the World Junior Championships. In 2010, Sunday’s bronze medalist Faivre won in Les Houches, France, and Pinturault claimed victory in 2009 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
The 20-year-old Pinturault is also the current leader of the overall European Cup and giant slalom discipline standings. "The win today was the goal of a good season and the reward of a good preparation. The Junior Worlds were awaited greatly and I had high expectations. I was hoping and expecting to win this title and I am extremly pleased that it worked out that way!" says a relieved Pinturault after his outstanding performance that awarded him the giant slalom title.
After the first run the Swiss Ski team still had their hopes up to score a podium finish with the defending slalom champion Reto Schmidiger in third and Justin Murisier in fifth position. However, both Swiss racers made mistakes in the second run and fell back in the ranking. Schmidiger eventually finished 9th and Murisier 7th.
Behind the French bronze medalist Mathieu Faivre three Austrian skiers, namely Roland Leitinger, Marcel Mathis and Martin Bishop were classified in fourth, fifth and sixth place. Frederic Berthold, the son of the Austrian Ski Association men's head coach Mathias Berthold, finished twelfth.
On the ladies side, last year’s bronze medal winner Lotte Smiseth Sejersted (NOR) put down the fastest time in the first downhill training that took place on a fairly challenging terrain that features a lot of jumps. The Swiss ladies had been training on the slope in Crans Montana all week long, which seemed to pay off on Sunday. They finished in the places 2 through 7, with Priska Nufer in second and Andrea Thuerler in third. Wendy Holdener came in fourth, followed by teammates Joana Haehlen in fifth, Jasmine Flury in sixth and Corinne Suter in seventh.
At night, the athletes took part in the opening ceremonies of the World Junior Championships, where the 51 nations were presented in front of a crowd of 5,000 people at the centre of the town of Crans Montana.
The ceremonies were topped off with an appearance by special guest Didier Defago, who has been a notable ski figure in Switzerland for over 10 years. He congratulated the athletes for qualifying for the Word Championships and thanked their parents and coaches for their support.
The program for the men will continue on Monday with a slalom while the ladies are gearing up for their second and final downhill training run.