SR Staff Report
Norway’s Lucas Braathen celebrates his victory – Photo: GEPA Pictures
ADELBODEN, Switzerland – If you haven’t yet watched the men’s Adelboden slalom and you like amazing performances, you should. However, the lead story is the great Swiss fans. As much as it was about the fans, today is about human connection. Waiving thousands of their country’s flags the fans roared for Loic Meillard with the intensity of a victorious World Cup soccer crowd. He was welcomed to the finish with an amazing ovation even though he crossed in third and eventually finished tied for fourth. Additionally, they fully embraced the best friends from Norway, who finished first and second. They also made the third-place finisher German Linus Strasser smile wide with appreciation when he skied into the finish area.
These people love ski racing and the extraordinary athletes who provide superhuman performances. Today the two most dramatic displays of excellence were delivered by the winner Lucas Braathen and his best friend, Atle Lie McGrath. These two friends couldn’t have been happier for each other, and they put that on display for everyone to witness.
Braathen skied into the finish area and into the arms of McGrath who was waiting to congratulate him with an exuberant hug. “It’s incredible,” said the 22-year-old Braathen, who is two days older than McGrath. “I see green lights and the first person I see is my partner in crime Atle. It’s a day Atle and I have been dreaming of since the day we started skiing,” Braathen reminisced of their childhood together at the Bærums club in Norway: “I can’t believe we are finally here.” Braathen’s fifth career World Cup win, and third in slalom, lifted him atop the season slalom discipline standings
No one can beat Braathen when the 22-year-old is at his best. Not even McGrath. Today Braathen was at his best. The best can make it look easy, but easy couldn’t be farther from reality. Even though their movements seem effortless, they are working hard every millisecond to merely stay stable. Braathen’s best runs are as good or better than any in history. Hopefully, ski racing fans will have the good fortune of watching this man perform for many years to come.
Second place, Vermont-born Norwegian McGrath’s personality is quite a bit different than his flamboyant friend, Braathen, Both, however, share being nice and down to earth. McGrath also has the talent to compete with Braathen’s best, and he does and will continue to.
These two are everyone’s friends but best friends for each other. He has been Lucas’s best friend since long before the two had their first national team uniforms. Today, the two showed the world that two people with the same ambitions and goals could fully appreciate and applaud the success of the other. Like the Olympic medaling Mahre brothers from the ’70s and ’80s, they want the other to challenge them, knowing they can trust each other to do it with love and respect.
Undoubtedly we can thank this Swiss crowd for bringing out the best in the gladiators who battled the course. . What a great environment to narrowly miss the podium and be tied for fourth. Meillard felt blessed by the appreciation of his fellow citizens and Italian, Alex Vinatzer, who has faltered this season without a result, used the crowd’s energy to finish tied 4th with Meillard.
Anton Tremmel used the crowd’s energy to battle his way into qualifying for the final run and then used the fastest final run to move up 16 positions and finish 13th.
How about the extremely talented AJ Ginnis, the former U.S. Ski Team member skiing for Greece? He has a long World Cup career and took advantage of the day to score for only the 3rd time in his many years of competing. Did the crowd play a role? No matter what the reason, Ginnis’s performance needs to be celebrated. It was impressive.
Considering US athlete Benjamin Ritchie, although he wasn’t able to take advantage of running first on the second run, he was able to score points for only the third time in his World Cup career. During the final run he skied well and was fast for most of the course until he turned early and found himself on the inside ski. However, anytime you end the day with points, you are among the elite. Ritchie’s best days are yet to come but today will hopefully kick-start his season.
No matter what nation is on their passport, this crowd wanted every athlete to leave feeling appreciated. No matter what positions they achieve, anyone who races the Adelboden challenge deserves respect. If you are a ski racing super fan and you have never attended the Adelboden races, SRM suggests you put it on your bucket list.
Analysis of top three finishers, North Americans, and final results
Final results of the January 8th World Cup Adelboden slalom
The Associated Press contributed to this report.