SR Staff Report
Loic Meillard. Photo: GEPA pictures
WENGEN, Switzerland — Loïc Meillard led the first run of a World Cup slalom on Sunday in what shaped up as another Switzerland-Norway duel.
Meillard was 0.45 seconds faster than Henrik Kristoffersen whose Norwegian teammate Lucas Braathen was third. The World Cup slalom standings leader has 0.48 to make up in the afternoon run.
While the race slope is truly spectacular, the weather wasn’t ideal. Today the overcast skies and the warm snow created challenges for later starters. The course set by Great Britains Tristan Glasse-Davies is slow and with wide turns. The last time he set was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen a year ago and he set another unique course that worked out well for his athlete Dave Ryding.
However, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen snow was icy and hard, today and Ryding was the slowest of the competitors after the first 15 had finished. The fastest athlete who managed the strange course was Swiss racer Loic Meillard. Meillard will take a 0.45-second advantage over Henrik Kristoffersen into the final run. Lucas Braathen is an additional 0.03 of a second behind in the third position. The only other athlete within a second of the lead is Linus Stasser, 0.68 off the leader. The fastest skied very well, but it wasn’t pretty.
Sometimes the course becomes the story, and today that is the case. The time difference among the top 30 who qualified was a massive 5.65 seconds due to the course and the warm snow deterioration. After the first 30 had finished, five athletes were unable to finish.
The Norwegian coach, Christian Mitter, will set the second course and will likely flow and be faster. Three Norwegians are among the fastest five first-run racers. Two of those are in Mitter’s group.
When USA’s Luke Winters finished, bib 27, saw he was 4.73 seconds behind Meillard, he likely doubted he would qualify for the final. Still, he did easily. Canadian Erik Read was 4.05 seconds slower than the leader, yet he moved from his 30th start number to 16th. Even more shocking is that the USA’s Ben Ritchie qualified 28th even though his time was 5.41 seconds behind Meillard’s.
Seeing two US athletes qualify for the second run is exciting. Ritchie will be the second athlete to race the final run. The time differential of the racers who qualified for the second run was a massive 5.65 seconds. The last racer to start the first run and qualify for the final was bib 62, Belgium’s Sam Maes. Maes is currently 26th. Only 41 skiers finished and many of those were far from mistake-free. Thirty of the first-run starter did not finish.
Analysis of the fastest three qualifiers, qualified North Americans, and top 30 first-run results
top 30 first run results January 15th Wengen slalom
The Associated Press contributed to this report.