Atle Lie McGrath threw one of his poles and two gloves into the snow in a burst of joy after crossing the finish line of a nighttime slalom, then took off his helmet and fired up spectators with arm gestures wild.
For someone who had never won a World Cup race before, the son of an American father and a Norwegian mother knew how to put on a show during his celebrations.
McGrath earned his first career World Cup win on Wednesday in a race that produced the eighth different winner in nine slaloms this season.
“This season all the races are crazy and cool. This is completely crazy. I worked so hard for this moment,” said McGrath, who had to cut short last season with a knee injury and fractured his right thumb two months ago.
This did not prevent him from obtaining good results. It was his fourth podium and his second in slalom after finishing second in another night race in Austria, in Schladming, six weeks ago.
“I’m not an expert on Austria, but Schladming and Flachau are really cool races. I love those night races,” said McGrath, who was born in Burlington, Vermont, as the son of Felix McGrath, a World Cup skier for the U.S. Ski Team in the 1980s and 90.
When Atle was two, the family moved to Norway, the home country of his mother, former cross-country skier Selma Lie.
McGrath trailed leader Johannes Strolz by nearly a second after the first run, but the Austrian dropped to fourth after several errors on his final run.
Olympic champion Clement Noel of France was second, 0.29 seconds behind McGrath. The rest of the field, led by Daniel Yule of Switzerland in third, was more than six tenths of a second off the lead.
Briton Dave Ryding, fifth after the first run, rode a gate and did not finish his last run.
The battle for the slalom season title features two Norwegian teammates of McGrath: Henrik Kristoffersen, the only rider to have multiple slalom victories this season, and Lucas Braathen.
With only the season-ending run left in the World Cup final on March 10, Kristoffersen leads Braathen by 48 points. Linus Strasser, Manuel Feller and Yule have little chance of winning the globe.
The two favorites had disappointing performances on Wednesday: Kristoffersen had just qualified for the second run in 28th place, but set the fastest time in the second run to move up to 16th. Braathen failed to close the gap to his teammate in the standings as he dropped from seventh to 15th, gaining just one point more than Kristoffersen.
Luke Winters was fifth fastest in the final run as the American finished seventh, his career best, two months after scoring his first top 10 result in the Adelboden slalom.
The first run marked the 329th and final race of Manfred Mölgg’s 19-year World Cup career.
The Italian veteran, who turns 40 in June, dropped one ski at the end of his run and slid to the finish on his other ski while waving to spectators.
Mölgg has won three World Cup races, all in slalom, and notched 20 podiums between 2004 and 2017.
He won the globe for best slalom skier in the 2007-08 season and won medals at three different world championships, including silver in slalom in 2007.
Flachau is an annual stop on the women’s circuit but steps in to host a men’s event for the second consecutive season.
The race replaced an early January slalom that was canceled after 19 starts due to poor course conditions in Zagreb.
The men’s World Cup continues with two giant slaloms in Slovenia this weekend ahead of the finals in France next week.
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