Faivre bags 'unreal' gold in world giant slalom as Pinturault bombs out

·4-min read
Frenchman Mathieu Faivre was an unexpected winner of the giant slalom at the world championships in Cortina

Unheralded French racer Mathieu Faivre trumped vaunted teammate Alexis Pinturault to win the men's giant slalom on Friday for his second gold of the world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo.

Faivre, who had won the parallel giant slalom on Tuesday, showed great consistency down the demanding Labirinti course, twice recording the fourth-fastest times for a combined total of 2min 37.25sec.

It was the first French title in the discipline since the legendary Jean-Claude Killy won 53 years ago at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, which at the time also counted as a world championships.

"I have to be honest and say that I wasn't too interested in the fact before the race, but now that it's reality, it sounds pretty good," Faivre said of emulating Killy.

Italy's Luca de Aliprandini claimed his first ever career podium with silver at 0.63sec, while Austrian Marco Schwarz added bronze to his alpine combined gold (+0.87) in what was also his first GS top-three finish.

Pinturault had led after the first run, but made a big mistake up high on the second run, when he skidded out of a turn and was unable to correct himself.

Having already won a combined silver and super-G bronze in Cortina, Pinturault had been hot favourite for the giant slalom, but the French racer's day ended in tears.

There was disbelief for Faivre, who crumpled to his knees when Pinturault's exit was confirmed and he realised he had won.

"I still can't believe it," said Faivre. "Nowadays you have to push every run if you want to win the race. If you push hard, you can make mistakes.

"Today Alexis skied out, that's good for me but bad for him. I'm a bit kind of sad for him, of course. It would have been amazing to be both on the podium.

"But it's part of the game. It's a tough sport for that because obviously you can make a mistake so easily."

Faivre said he was "really, really happy" about his medal in the parallel, "but I came for the GS. To get a gold medal in the GS just feels unreal."

Pinturault said he was "gutted" by his no-result. He denied he had felt under increased pressure as favourite, having won the last three World Cup GS races.

"No, not really. I already went through that experience two years ago in Are," he said. "I felt at ease here."

Pinturault was quick to praise Faivre: "Hats off to him! he's had a wonderful championship."

- Favourites fall away -

The 29-year-old, with just one victory on the World Cup circuit in 2016 to his name, nailed his second run to perfection in testing icy conditions under clear skies.

There was drama as Germany's Alexander Schmid, third after the first run, bombed out into the netting. Then came home favourite De Aliprandini, chasing a first podium placing.

The Italian lost valuable time up the top section but the 30-year-old held his form and eventually streaked across the finish line to whoops and applause from a partisan crowd drastically reduced in number because of Covid-19 restrictions.

All eyes turned to Pinturault in the start hut. But his second effort was shortlived as he frustratingly slid wide on the seventh gate, and out of medal contention.

"The light didn't help me," said 'Pintu'. "I skied into a bad rut, it bumped me out and I didn't have time to react to try and rectify it."

Swiss hopes were loaded on to the shoulders of Loic Meillard as teammates Marco Odermatt, Justin Murisier and Gino Caviezel all skied out.

But Meillard's bid for a third medal in Cortina, after bronzes in the combined and parallel GS, evaporated after a slight mistake made him quickly lose his advantage on the hill.

He eventually finished fifth (+1.77), just behind Croatian Filip Zubcic (+1.54).

Reigning world champion Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was just 15th, at 2.32sec, after the first run, but improved slightly on the second to finish ninth (+2.53)