Grange storms back to win slalom in final event at worlds
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (AP) — Skiing into heavy snowfall, Jean-Baptiste Grange of France won the slalom title Sunday at the world championships after first-run leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria straddled a gate in the deteriorating conditions.
Trailing by 0.88 seconds heading into the final run of the last race, Grange had no trouble with the low visibility and snow sticking to goggles as he finished in an unofficial combined time of 1 minute, 57.47 seconds. Fritz Dopfer of Germany was second, 0.35 seconds behind, and teammate Felix Neureuther earned bronze.
Even with Hirscher going out, the Austrians easily won the medal race with nine, which was four more than the Americans.
After Dopfer took over the lead, a local choir group began practicing the German national anthem in a nearby building. In mid tune, though, they impressively switched over to the French anthem as Grange took over the top spot with a nearly flawless run.
Grange doesn’t exactly have the warmest of memories about this course. Sure, he’s got one World Cup podium finish at Beaver Creek — the super-combined in 2007 — but he also injured his right knee on the hill in 2009. It kept him out of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
He quickly returned to his winning ways, winning the 2011 world slalom title in Germany.
“It’s a wonderful gift for all of these four years — many injuries, bad bib numbers, no confidence sometimes,” Grange said. “You know, skiing is always hard. But it’s easier when you’re on the podium and when you win.”
Hirscher, the defending champion, was dropping time when he went out with the finish line in sight. He lifted up his goggles and stared down the course in disbelief.
The 25-year-old Hirscher leaves Beaver Creek with gold in the Alpine combined and team event, along with a silver in the giant slalom.
“In general, it was a super good world championships for me,” Hirscher said. “Way more than we were expecting before worlds. It (stinks) so much today. Just keep on going.”
American Ted Ligety wound up 21st, 3.84 seconds behind Grange, as he struggled with the snowy conditions.
“I’m not very psyched on it,” Ligety said of his final run. “Came down way out (of the lead) — pretty obvious I’m not going to be happy with that kind of performance.”
Still, he finished the championships with gold in the giant slalom and a bronze in Alpine combined.
The last skier to go at these championships was Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, the 56-year-old German prince who skis for Mexico. He finished 58.09 seconds behind Grange.