Swiss phenom Marco Odermatt cemented his place as Alpine skiing’s top male star, winning the men’s giant slalom gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The 24-year-old was quickest through two runs down the “Ice River” technical course at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, which saw heavy snow and poor visibility throughout the day despite averaging fewer than 10 inches of precipitation annually. The two runs were separated by a 75-minute delay due to the weather.
Odermatt posted the best time in Run 1 and the second-best time in Run 2 for a combined winning mark of 2:09.35. The Swiss skier, who's popularity in his home nation is said to rival that of Roger Federer, punctuated his breakout season – in which he won four of five giant slalom races on the World Cup tour – with his first career Olympic medal.
"It's unbelievable. It was a hard day, with the conditions, with such a long wait between the two runs. It was more than five hours for me, it was such a long time to re-think everything and it was hard to stay focused. I tried to sleep some minutes in between," Odermatt said. "I actually never dreamt about it but now it still feels like a dream."
Odermatt revealed that after taking the top spot in the first run – albeit by a razor-thin 0.04 over second place – he made alterations to his equipment in hopes of finding even more speed in Run 2. It was a decision that could have backfired with catastrophic consequences.
"I really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal," he said. "It's difficult because you can lose everything but today it paid off."
Slovenia's Zan Kranjec finished just 0.19 back of Odermatt for silver after skiing the best second run by more than a half-second. Mathieu Faivre of France took bronze.
24-year-old American River Radamus finished just 0.26 off the podium in fourth, the best result of his international racing career.
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"It's tough to swallow right now for sure, but I know in my heart that I did everything I could to prepare for today, I couldn't have asked for more," the Colorado native said. "I could have hoped for more, but I'm really proud of my work today and throughout the season, so I'll take pride in this result and carry it forward into the next races."
Radamus tipped his cap to fellow 24-year-old Odermatt, who he will likely battle in international competition for years to come. "He's the best in the world right now, so I think he deserved to win, absolutely today. With the pressure that he has to have had on his shoulders there, coming down and winning that was spectacular."