By ERIC WILLEMSEN
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — The Norwegian ski team arrived at the world championships without many of its injured stars. It left on Sunday with two gold medals and a bronze.
Sebastian Foss-Solevåg triumphed in the concluding event, the men’s slalom, while fellow Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen took the bronze.
The success came four days after Foss-Solevåg led Norway to gold in the team event.
“It’s a dream, two golds in Cortina. That’s incredible,” he said.
The Norway team was missing Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Adrian Smiseth Sejersted, Lucas Braathen and Atle Lie McGrath, all due to knee injuries, which mainly affected its chances in the speed events and the giant slalom.
“We had too many crashes, too many injuries,” Foss-Solevåg said. “With a small team, we have two gold medals, that’s very good.”
Foss-Solevåg is having his breakout season on the World Cup circuit, with four top-five finishes including his first win, in Flachau, Austria, last month.
On Sunday, he was third after the opening run, close behind surprise leader Adrian Pertl of Austria and Alex Vinzatzer of Italy, before posting the fastest time in the final run.
Pertl ended up 0.21 seconds behind for silver, while Vinatzer dropped to fourth, missing the podium by 0.74.
“It’s amazing to finish off like this,” Foss-Solevåg said. “I know the two guys in front can also put it together, but I fought from the start to the bottom and I did it.”
Foss-Solevåg became the first slalom world champion from Norway since Tom Stiansen won the title in 1997.
Kristoffersen, last season’s World Cup slalom champion, contributed to the Norwegian success story.
Sixth after the opening run, he moved up three spots and finished 0.46 behind Foss-Solevåg to earn a slalom medal at the worlds for the first time. He was fourth in both 2015 and 2017.
“The gold for Sebastian has certainly more value than my bronze,” said Kristoffersen, who travels the World Cup circuit with his own team.
“But I am very satisfied. You’re on the podium, then you have to say that you’re satisfied,” he added. “Now I have Olympic and world championship medals in both slalom and GS. That’s not bad at all.”
Austria had won five of the six slalom medals at the last two worlds, both times with retired standout Marcel Hirscher taking the gold, and Pertl came close to continuing the streak.
Pertl was a late pick by Austrian coaches to complete the squad of four, which also included World Cup winners Marco Schwarz, Manuel Feller and Michael Matt.
Pertl prevailed over another up-and-coming prospect, Fabian Gstrein, in what seemed a surprise choice by the team. Gstrein was fastest in qualifying for the parallel race last Tuesday and finished that event in sixth, while Pertl didn’t finish his qualifying run.
“I had to fight even to be able to start today,” said Pertl, whose best World Cup result is third. “And now it’s a silver medal. That’s fantastic.”
Many pre-race favorites struggled on the demanding Druscié course.
Schwarz, who leads the World Cup slalom standings, was aiming for his second gold after winning the combined title.
However, the Austrian led by 0.57 seconds in the final leg when he straddled a gate.
Clément Noël also failed to finish his run when the Frenchman slid off the course on the boot of his inside ski halfway through his final run.
Despite warm temperatures, the sun-bathed course held up well and provided late starters in the opening run with a chance to race into the top 15.
In an unusual move to give the leading skiers the best course conditions, organizers decided that not the top 30 but only the 15 fastest skiers from the first leg were to open the second run in reverse order.
That meant that racers who finished the first leg in 16th or lower were left with virtually no chance for a medal.
Wearing bib No. 43, Jett Seymour skied into 10th position while American teammate Luke Winters started 38th and placed 15th, though both straddled a gate in their final runs.
With its second gold, Norway joined France in third position on the overall medal table of the worlds. Only Austria (five) and Switzerland (three) won more events.
More AP skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Norway’s Sebastian Foss Solevaag celebrates at the finish area of the men’s slalom, at the alpine ski World Championships, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021.