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Giant slalom king Odermatt grabs second World Championship gold

Feb 17, 2023·Alpine Skiing
Odermatt added the giant slalom title to the downhill gold he earned earlier this week (Agence Zoom)

Marco Odermatt’s stellar season reached its apex in Courchevel on Friday, as the Swiss superstar bagged his second gold of the 2023 World Championships – and continued his total dominance of the giant slalom discipline.

Odermatt was hot favourite going into the event: he is the Olympic champion, and has won four of the six World Cup giant slalom races this term, without missing a podium.

It was far from easy, however, to add the World Championship title to his list of achievements.

This was one of the most gruelling races of the year: a long, icy, variable piste with several light-to-dark sections.

On the first run, Austria’s Marco Schwarz produced the performance of a lifetime to finish 0.48 seconds ahead of Odermatt – looking powerful where others had fatigued.

The second time down, however, Odermatt’s season-long consistency shone through. He combined focus and aggression, but crucially didn’t make any errors on a rutted course.

Schwarz followed, but the Austrian slalom specialist, who has never won a GS, made small errors at the top and middle of the course, then a bigger mistake towards the end, to watch his lead agonisingly fritter away, finishing +0.40 behind, in third place.

Loic Meillard (SUI) took second place, +0.32 adrift of Odermatt.

It meant Austria’s wait for a gold at these championships continue. Odermatt, though, was in dreamland.

It was a great day for Swiss ski fans, with Loic Meillard taking silver (Agence Presse)
It was a great day for Swiss ski fans, with Loic Meillard taking silver (Agence Zoom)

“It’s amazing, we have so many great Swiss fans here, family and friends – thanks to the crowd,” he said.

“It was another big fight today. Another difficult race, rough conditions, you always have to push, but stay on your feet. It was not easy to focus, and have the energy for the final run.

“I didn’t expect to win, Marco skied so well in the first run. But he did some mistakes in the second, which helped me for gold.”

Odermatt admitted that already having a title meant there was less pressure for his favourite event.

“It was way easier today, because you know you have a gold medal in your room,” he said. “But sure, you want to deliver again. As soon as you are on the start gate, you need to perform and show your best skiing, you want to win.”

The technically brilliant Meillard (SUI) had also looked like he was gliding across the ruts.

“It was a great fight and I am very happy with my second run, and to finish in second,” he said.

“You never know what will happen when you cross the line, but I was very happy with the run. I have no regrets. The second run was rough, you were always a bit against the slope.”

Switzerland have edged rivals Austria during these World Championships (Agence Zoom)
Switzerland have edged rivals Austria during these World Championships (Agence Zoom)

Schwarz was also content despite watching his lead slip.

“[On the first run] I had a good feeling from the top to the finish,” he said. “My skis work really nicely on this kind of snow. Some gates were pretty icy and some were very grippy, so thanks to my service team. I had a great feeling.

“On the second run I had a little mistake. It was not so easy with the visibility. It was a little bit bumpy, then I lost some speed. But all in all, it was pretty good.

"Last World Championships, I also made the bronze in GS, so I am pretty happy about that today.”

The World Championships conclude on Sunday with the men’s slalom.