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Cortina d’Ampezzo (BL), 19 February 2021 – Mathieu Faivre (FRA) won gold in the men’s Giant Slalom at the Cortina 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on Friday, following an uncharacteristic fall on the second run by his teammate, and race leader, Alexis Pinturault (FRA).
Pinturault had been heavy favourite for the title pre-race and his odds had shortened even further after he put down a flawless first run, finishing four tenths of a second ahead of the second-placed Luca De Aliprandini (ITA).
Top of the overall giant slalom World Cup rankings, and dominating the discipline going into the world championships, Pinturault has barely put a GS ski wrong all season. But he faltered in what should have been the biggest moment of his career, blowing out of a race for the first time since March 2018.
Instead, another Frenchman will be seen as one of the standout stars of Cortina 2021. Often in Pinturault’s shadow, this was Faivre’s second gold medal of the championships after he won the parallel giant slalom race on Tuesday. He is the first Frenchman to win two golds at a single World Championships since Jean-Claude Killy got four in 1968.
De Aliprandini won silver and Marco Schwarz (AUT) took bronze.
“It feels unreal right now, I can’t believe it,” Faivre said. “Today was really challenging. The second run was so tough, but I saw green. I’m a bit sad for Alexis. It would have been amazing to both be on podium but now I’m gold medallist in giant and it’s amazing”.
“I’m just really proud of what I’ve done, about my mindset, about my skiing. I think it’s going to take some time to understand what is happening right now. I’ll be a bit tired tonight.”
On a tricky, changeable course which forced numerous racers into errors, Pinturault had looked streets ahead of the competition on the first run: solid, grounded and in control. De Aliprandini meanwhile was aggressive, while Germany’s Alexander Schmid finished third-fastest.
Faivre clocked the fourth-quickest time, showing all the skill he had demonstrated in the parallel. The second run, however, was even better, with Faivre getting down the with perfect smoothness and balance.
Schmid crashed out, De Aliprandini could not top the Frenchman, and then came Pinturault’s horror moment – an inside ski giving way on an early gate to end his hopes. Faivre had his head in his hands for his teammate, while also processing the fact that he was now a world champion.
“It’s part of the game,” said Faivre about Pinturault’s error. “It’s a tough sport for that because obviously you can make a mistake so easily. It was really on the first pitch, because it became so dark and you couldn’t ski the lines.”
De Aliprandini’s finish was responsible for the biggest cheer of the day. His silver medal was the first podium place for an Italian man during the championships.
“I came here in Cortina without any pressure because I wasn’t the favourite, so winning a medal here and being the first time on the podium, it’s crazy, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
“I was trying to hold my line, my skis were fighting against me. It’s a long steep, bumpy, dark second run – a real world champion GS.”
“It means a lot to me [to have my] first time on the podium. I was close to a big result so many times but I always made some mistake. It was a dream, but in the last times it has become a nightmare.”
“So much emotion, I think you’ve all seen me in the finish. A home world champs, it could not be better, I think.”
Marco Schwarz, winner of the Alpine combined and a leading contender for the men’s slalom on Sunday, grabbed bronze, continuing a great tournament for him and his Austrian team. “I didn’t expect to win a medal in the giant slalom but I knew I could do it,” he said.
The Swiss team, meanwhile, continued a miserable run in the men’s competition, with three DNFs, and Loic Meillard (SUI) finishing fifth.
The men’s programme, and the world championships overall, conclude on Sunday with the slalom.