Heartbreak and joy in one simple moment as Faivre wins GS Title

From the opening racer to the moment Alexis Pinturault slid out of the race on the second run, the 2021 Men's Giant Slalom had more discussion points than you could believe. The length of the course, the three different types of snow, the advantage of Pinturault from the first run and then incredibly for the first time since 2018, Alexis Pinturault crashing out from a winning position. This left his compatriot, Mathieu Faivre, already the Parallel GS World Champion, took Gold ahead of a first Men's medal for the Italian team courtesy of Luca de Aliprandini and Marco Schwarz taking the bronze. Filip Zubcic took fourth, Loic Meillard fifth and Zan Kranjec sixth.

This was a day of racing that was hard work for the racers. The long course and with this, three different types of snow for the racers and their servicemen to prepare for. From ice at the top to melting snow and then salted snow, how do you prepare for that?

Pinturault had nailed the first run and with a number of the stars of GS off the mark, the second run saw a battle for the remaining places on the podium as everybody expected Pinturault to ski off into the distance. The ski racing Gods had another script.

Stefan Hadalin produced the best run of the second run to list himself up the results board. Sadly for him, he was unable to make it into the top fifteen and so scored no World Cup Start List points as he ended up in 16th. From going second on the second run, he used the opportunity to great effect in setting a marker for the rest after a slightly disappointing first run for him.

Another to consign the day to the memory bank will be Leif Kristian Nestvold Haugen. One of the top seeds, Haugen was way off the pace on the first run, over four seconds that it was a case of fighting for scraps rather than hunting for a medal.

Adam Zampa was the next to really take hold of the opportunity he was presented with as he posted the third fastest second run and this allowed him to set up home in the leaders enclosure, eventually ending up in 8th place, one place ahead of the defending World Champion, Henrik Kristoffersen.

Kristoffersen has not had a great season on his Giant Slalom skis he admits. "I am struggling in GS at the moment as I am not finding a set up that works," he openly explained after the race, "then I get a little insecure, then the skiing is bad again. when you ski bad, the material gets even worse. I do not feel confident in GS at the moment, I am struggling and when it is three different types of condition in one slope, it is quite bad because then it is difficult to find one set up that works. I have a really good set up for there salt but since it is only the last part that is salt, I cannot use it as then it is going to be even worse at the top than it is but that is how it is at the moment."

The race livened up considerably when Filip Zubcic came down from 11th after the first run to take the lead with a really determined performance going almost nine tenths ahead of the rest of the field. This put the pressure on the remaining ten racers.

It took until Marco Schwarz came down from sixth after the first run for his time to bettered. With each racer, the tension was being ratcheted up ever more. Schwarz was the last of the Austrians to be able to challenge for a medal bt there were still some great racers at the top looking for their moment of glory. After he race Schwarz commented: “I went into the race relaxed,” said Schwarz. “Obviously, on Sunday the slalom will be the big challenge, but to go into Sunday with two medals already makes me extremely happy.”

The only Swiss racer to make the second run, Loic Meillard was next up but small mistakes and tiredness cost him and he dropped out of the running down the list.

With four to go, first up was Mathieu Faivre. Faivre already had a Gold medal in his bag from the Parallel GS and maybe this relaxed him slightly. Faivre is a strong racer and he wanted another to take home. No French racer had won the Gold since 1968 in the World Championships and while Pinturault was considered the favourite, Faivre was in with a shout as well, being just 0.58 off the lead.

Faivre battled and attacked and at the bottom explained that the second run had felt "really tough. It feels unreal now. I cannot believe it," adding "I did some mistakes and I did not know what to expect at the end but then when I saw green."

Faivre had done all he could and now he had to watch to see what Alex Schmid, Luca de Aliprandini and his friend Alexis Pinturault could all do.

Schmid was first up and with a bronze from the team event, Schmid was looking for a second medal. The German blasted out the start but no sooner had he got into the groove and he was out in a cloud of snow. Despair for him but this meant Faivre was now guaranteed a medal.

Next was the last great hope for the Italians. De Aliprandini had explained between runs that the gap between him and the lead was not that great and certainly surmountable. What he had not taken into account was the speed that Faivre had gone at as he slotted into second, still a guaranteed medal and the joy across his face was great to see.

“So many years on the World Cup tour without a giant slalom podium and here, at the home World Championships, it finally happened,” di Aliprandini said of his silver medal. “I can’t say that what I felt was pressure, it was more of hunger to get the medal.”

This left 31 racers at the start but it was all eyes on Alexis Pinturault. The advantage he held was 0.58 from the first run, a country mile in GS terms.

The consistency that Pinturault has shown on the World Cup this year had people asking what colour the medal would be and how big the gap would be. While the debate started, Pinturault suddenly slipped on his inside and he was out. The unthinkable had happened.

Despair and joy for the French team. No double medal but they still had the Gold.

Britain's Charlie Raposo failed to complete the first run sadly. Raposo was in hugely impressive form, his splits had him challenging for the top thirty from his bib of 38. Sadly he had a ski swing in and he flipped round in a three sixty rotation, the Freestylers would have been impressed with how he landed it and took a moment to compose himself. The frustration was audible but he was happy to be able to ski away from it with just his pride dented.

Ireland's Alec Scott also came out on the first run.

Final word for the new World Champion: Mathieu Faivre: “I’ve had a lot of frustration in the last few years and had to fight, but now I look forward to celebrating this gold medal with my teammates,” said an emotional Faivre after the race.

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