Swiss star Odermatt wins World Cup giant slalom at Val d’Isere in French Alps. Andorra’s Verdu 3rd

Swiss star Odermatt wins World Cup giant slalom at Val d’Isere in French Alps. Andorra’s Verdu 3rd

VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) — Marco Odermatt raced through steady falling snow, making errors in his run, yet still won a World Cup giant slalom by almost one full second on Saturday.

The Olympic, world and World Cup champion in giant slalom is almost unbeatable in his favored discipline and finished 0.98 seconds ahead of Marco Schwarz.

Joan Verdu, getting a best-ever World Cup result for the tiny principality of Andorra, was third trailing Odermatt by 1.32 seconds.

The 80,000 population of Andorra, nestled in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, had never produced a top-10 finish in 57 years of World Cup racing for men and women until Verdu raced on the podium Saturday to stand next to the Alpine powers of Switzerland and Austria.

“I’m speechless,” said the 28-year-old Verdu, whose previous best result was 12th one year ago at Alta Badia, Italy. “It’s difficult when you are a kid in Andorra, you really don’t have an Andorran idol. It was hard to believe at the beginning.

“I just want to inspire all the Andorran little guys to believe and to push hard,” he said.

Odermatt already is an inspiring generational talent for the Swiss and it was a 25th career World Cup win for the two-time defending overall champion.

He extended his first-run lead on his decisive second run despite being at the limit of his balance at times.

“Many little mistakes,” Odermatt acknowledged. “Visibility was very, very flat. I struggled a bit on the top.”

Storied resort Val d’Isere hosted its traditional early season meet days after learning it is unlikely to be in the venue plan for the 2030 Olympics that France is set to host. Courchevel and Meribel are instead favored to stage Alpine skiing.

At the 1992 Winter Games hosted by nearby Albertville, Val d’Isere staged men’s Alpine races and the giant slalom was won by Italian great Alberto Tomba.

The 26-year-old Odermatt’s win tied Tomba on 15 career victories in World Cup giant slalom.

Calgary’s Erik Read was the top Canadian, placing 19th.

Saturday’s event was just the second official race of the weather-affected men’s World Cup after a series of cancellations and the abandonment of the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden, Austria. Schwarz had been leading that race in October.

Val d’Isere stages a slalom Sunday that Odermatt will skip.


AP skiing:

The Associated Press

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