Norway's Foss-Solevaag storms to world slalom gold

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 down the Druscie course, but recorded the fastest second leg for a winning combined total of 1min 46.48sec.

Austria's first-run leader Adrian Pertl 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.

"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!"

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.

France's Alexis Pinturault was next, but struggled for pace, and 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 -- most recently in Chamonix and Madonna di Campiglio.

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

Foss-Solevaag, whose only World Cup victory to date came in the Flachau slalom last month, knew he'd skied well, collapsing 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 pushed that out 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 (five gold, one silver, two bronze).

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

Foss-Solevaag, the first Norwegian to win the world slalom title since Tom Stiansen in 1997, was left in tears, clutching his helmet as Kristoffersen congratulated him.