SCHLADMING, Austria (AP)Loic Meillard beat his teammate Gino Caviezel to lead a Swiss 1-2 finish at a floodlit World Cup giant slalom Wednesday.
The pair stepped in to give the Swiss ski team a victory despite the absence of its standout performer, Marco Odermatt, who had won four of the five giant slaloms this season but sat out the race to rest a sore knee.
Both skiers held their positions from the first run, as Meillard beat Caviezel by 0.59 seconds.
”I was pretty calm. I had led after a first run a couple times before, so I know how it feels and what I had to do,” Meillard said. ”My skiing was good in the first run so I wanted to show that again in the second.”
Marco Schwarz posted the fastest second-run time and the Austrian improved from 14th to third position, 0.81 off the pace.
Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, who was third after the opening run, dropped to fifth.
”It was pretty good, for sure,” said Meillard, who finished fifth in a night slalom on the same hill Tuesday.
”Difficult to get in the rhythm, yesterday evening it was late. But I felt good. I like the snow, I like the slope, so it’s pretty cool.”
Meillard was the junior world champion in GS and had six World Cup podiums in the discipline without a win. His only previous victory came in a parallel race in France in 2020.
”It’s amazing, the first victory for me. To share the first podium with Gino is incredible, that makes it even double enjoyable,” Meillard said.
Meillard is one of the few allrounders on the World Cup circuit who compete in all disciplines, and he could start in all six men’s races plus the mixed-team event at the Feb. 6-19 world championships in France.
”There are a lot of chances. But it’s a lot, it’s exhausting, so physically I have to stay fit. That’s the most important,” he said.
Odermatt has been recovering after hurting his left knee last Friday in an acrobatic recovery from a near-crash at a downhill in Kitzbuehel.
The defending overall champion first went back on snow for a training session on Wednesday and he did appear on the official start list released by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, but ultimately decided not to race.
”First day back on snow and I made a huge step ahead! My knee is feeling better and the confidence is coming back. But I won’t race tonight,” Odermatt wrote on Instagram. ”It’s a decision made by my head and not by my heart but I would risk too much for the upcoming days and my future.”
Odermatt added he was planning to compete in two super-G races in Italy this weekend, the last men’s World Cup speed events before the worlds.
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde benefited from his rival’s absence Wednesday. The Norwegian skier finished eighth and closed the gap to leader Odermatt in the overall standings to 193 points.
The GS was initially scheduled for Garmisch-Partenkirchen this upcoming weekend but moved to Schladming on short notice after the event in Germany was canceled due to a lack of snow.
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