Sebastian Foss-Solevaag attacks on the second run men's slalom in world championships

Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) - Norwegian Sebastian Foss-Solevaag produced the run of his life to claim a thrilling gold in the world championship-ending men’s slalom in Cortina d’Ampezzo on Sunday.

Foss-Solevaag, who was part of the Norway squad that won gold in the parallel team event, was third after the first run, but recorded the fastest second leg for a combined winning total of 1min 46.48sec.

Adrian Pertl, the Austrian who led after the first run, claimed silver at 0.21sec, with experienced Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen picking up bronze (+0.46).

“It’s amazing to finish up like this,” said the 29-year-old Foss-Solevaag, whose only World Cup victory to date came in the Flachau slalom last month.

“The slalom has been really good this year. To come in the second run with such a huge lead was such a great feeling.

“I knew the two guys in front could often pull it together but it was a fight from the start to the bottom, and, hah, I did it!”

Foss-Solevaag is the first Norwegian to win the world slalom title since Tom Stiansen in 1997.

Kristoffersen hailed his teammate, saying: “We’ve been training so much together in the years, we’ve been skiing World Cups, so it’s really cool to see him taking the step and now winning his second race.

“A first individual medal, so that’s really cool and I’m super happy with the day.”

Croatia’s Istok Rodes held the early lead before Switzerland’s Daniel Yule took over as the top eight readied themselves for a second descent down the testing Druscie piste in sunny conditions with temperatures hitting an unseasonal 5C (41F).

In a departure from normal procedure, organisers announced that rather than the top 30 going in reverse order in the second run, it was modified to the top 15 because of the warm temperatures.

Austria’s Marco Schwarz, a hot pre-race favourite fresh from gold in the alpine combined and a surprise bronze in the giant slalom, was first of the elite band to kick out of the start gate, attacking from the off before a mistake saw him straddle a gate.

Alexis Pinturault was next, but struggled for pace, meaning the Frenchman left Cortina with just one medal – a super-G bronze.

- Exits abound -

Kristoffersen followed and laid down a near-perfect run to snatch the lead from Yule by 0.76sec.

There was drama as French hope Clement Noel hit the snow as he went wide around a turn, ruling him out of contention, swiftly followed by Swede Kristoffer Jakobsen’s exit.

That left the fastest trio from the first run to challenge the vastly experienced Kristoffersen, the 2014 Olympic bronze medallist who has 23 World Cup wins including 19 in slalom.

First out was Foss-Solevaag, and the Norwegian made no mistake, timing a fantastic 54.08sec down the course partly thrown into shade, making him the fastest of all competitors and 0.24sec swifter than his teammate who was pushed into second.

Foss-Solevaag knew he had skied well and collapsed to the floor in the finish area on his back with skis pointed skywards, fists punching the air.

Italian Alex Vinatzer, second in the first leg, could only come in behind the two Norwegians, leaving just Pertl to come.

The Austrian started with a 0.16sec advantage and increased that to 0.23 on the first split to airhorns piped over the tannoy and gasps from a crowd reduced in number because of Covid-19 restrictions.

A small mistake saw Pertl’s time edge into the red. He held his form, however, and streaked through to claim silver, consolidating Austria’s place atop the overall medals table with five golds, one silver and two bronze.

“I never expected that result when I woke up this morning,” said Pertl. “I’m super happy with second place.”

Foss-Solevaag was left in tears, clutching his helmet as Kristoffersen congratulated him.

“I’m very happy for Sebastian, we’ve known each other for so many years, we’ve skied so much together,” said Kristoffersen. “Super cool!”