COURCHEVEL, France (AP)Marco Odermatt was still a 5-year-old boy when his father first met Swiss skiing great Pirmin Zurbriggen in 2002.
Walter Odermatt was thinking about starting a ski school and exchanged ideas with Zurbriggen, the 1988 Olympic downhill and four-time world champion, who had successfully set up an academy for talented skiers after his retirement.
On Friday, Walter Odermatt wiped away tears when he and his wife Priska witnessed their son win a giant slalom to become the first Swiss man since Zurbriggen 36 years ago to earn two gold medals at the same world championships.
Zurbriggen won the super-G and downhill at his home world championships in Crans-Montana in 1987.
Odermatt’s victory came five days after he was the surprise winner of the downhill.
”Another perfect day for me,” said Odermatt, who had not won a medal in his eight previous world championship races, after winning five junior word titles in 2018.
He called winning the GS ”very different” from his downhill victory – which marked his first victory in that discipline.
”The emotions in the downhill were way bigger. That was a surprise for me, for everybody,” he said. ”Now I had a gold medal in my room. That made it easier today.”
Odermatt, who won the giant slalom at last year’s Beijing Olympics, was second after the opening run but beat Swiss teammate Loic Meillard by 0.32 seconds.
”The double victory made it even more special,” Odermatt said.
First-run leader Marco Schwarz of Austria finished 0.40 seconds behind to take the bronze medal.
”I actually didn’t expect to win,” Odermatt said. ”Marco skied so well in the first run. He did some mistakes in the second. That helped me for gold.”
Many fans were waving Swiss flags in the stands and chanted ”Odi, Odi” when Odermatt won.
”It’s amazing. So many great Swiss fans here, family, friends,” Odermatt said. ”For me as a Swiss it’s nearly a home race.”
Odermatt has been dominating giant slalom on the World Cup circuit, winning four of the five events he competed in this season. He’s also well on his way to successfully defending the overall World Cup title that he won last year.
Odermatt was a big favorite for gold in GS, but found himself 0.58 seconds behind Schwarz after the first run.
A combination of slippery ice and grippy snow made the race on the shady L’Eclipse course challenging. Schwarz had a clean first run throughout but gained the most time on his rivals in the final section.
Odermatt was also not flawless in the second run on a course set by Helmuth Krug, an Austrian coach working for the Swiss team.
”Our coach set the course in second run and set the way and we delivered and that’s incredible,” Odermatt said. ”It was a solid run, but not maybe the best one, so I needed (Schwarz’s mistakes) to help me.”
And they did. Schwarz had two costly mistakes in the middle section and needed almost a second more than Odermatt to complete his run. He dropped to third, behind Odermatt and Meillard, but ahead of Austrian teammate Stefan Brennsteiner in fourth.
”Overall I am satisfied. I had a couple of mistakes in my second run that you cannot make on this level,” Schwarz said. ”The pressure was a bit more than usual. I tried to keep the focus and I managed to do that well. Odi has been dominating the GS for two years now, so you have to acknowledge that.”
Schwarz won bronze in GS and the combined title at the worlds two years ago; and was the 2020-21 World Cup slalom champion but has yet to win a top-level giant slalom. He only got his first World Cup podium in the discipline in the last race before the worlds, in Schladming, Austria in January.
Austrian skiers have yet to win an event at this year’s championships, two years after the team led the medals table at the worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with five golds.
The gold medal awarded to Odermatt was the 400th in worlds history. The first gold was won by British skier Esme Mackinnon in women’s slalom at the 1931 worlds in Switzerland.
The last men’s race of the worlds is the slalom Sunday, a day after Mikaela Shiffrin and the women complete their schedule with a slalom.
Willemsen reported from Vienna.
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