Kristoffersen wins WCup slalom as Round 1 leader Nef falters

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Henrik Kristoffersen ended a year-long wait for his 20th career victory in slalom on Saturday, triumphing at the first men’s World Cup after the Beijing Olympics.

And the Norwegian skier put himself in the running for what would also be his third title of the season in slalom.

Kristoffersen took advantage of an error by the leader of the first heat Tanguy Nef. The little-known Swiss, who started 25th and whose career-best result is sixth, led a World Cup race for the first time.

Nef had been 0.07 faster than Kristoffersen on stage one and he managed to hold onto that advantage in his final run until he rode a gate just before entering the steep finish section .

Nef’s mishap earned Kristoffersen his first slalom victory since his triumph in Chamonix, France, in January 2021. In the past 13 months, he had only won a giant slalom, in December.

The result came after Kristoffersen started working with a new ski technician, replacing Philippe Petitjean, who had been preparing his skis since 2013.

“We changed a lot in December, which is quite late in the season, but it’s working so well now,” said Kristoffersen, who narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal placing fourth in Beijing.

“Now we just have to focus on skiing and anything is possible,” he added.

Switzerland’s Loïc Meillard, who trailed Kristoffersen by a hundredth of a second after the first run, finished 0.14 behind in second.

Manuel Feller trailed 0.51 in third, followed by Austrian teammate and three-time Olympic medalist Johannes Strolz.

Olympic champion Clément Noël jumped in his second run. Running in mild temperatures, the Frenchman struggled on soft snow conditions and finished 1.18 seconds off the lead in the opening run.

Kristoffersen became the seventh different winner after seven slalom races this season, with the battle for the title in the discipline still wide open with the top seven riders separated by just 39 points.

Three more races remain, including one at the same location on Sunday. A race win is worth 100 points.

Kristoffersen’s teammate Lucas Braathen, who leads the slalom standings, rode a gate midway through his race but was already more than eight-tenths of a second off the lead on the first pass.

Braathen saw their lead reduced to a single point over Kristoffersen, with Meillard now on 10 points and Feller on 12 points.

“I’ve won so many races that as long as I ski technically well, we’re here to fight for sure,” Kristoffersen said. “It’s not that we’re going to win every race, but if we do the right technical things we’re in the race.”

Another Norwegian favourite, world slalom champion Sebastian Foss-Solevåg, failed to complete his opening run.

Spanish skier Joaquim Salarich, who wore bib No. 50 and had earned World Cup points in just two previous races, finished 1.11 behind for a career-best eighth.

Salarich finished well ahead of defending overall champion Alexis Pinturault and World Cup slalom champion Marco Schwarz in 15th and 16th respectively.

Dace Ryding, who became Britain’s first ever World Cup winner by winning the Kitzbuhel slalom last month, was more than two seconds off the pace in 20th.

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