In a crazy atmosphere, Clément Noël won the first French victory of the winter in the Alpine Skiing World Cup slalom in Schladming (Austria) this Tuesday evening, less than two weeks from the World Cup at home.
Alexis Pinturault, on the other hand, experienced a new disappointment with an elimination in the first round.
The rise of the champion
Only 7th in the first layout at 77/100 from the leader Henrik Kristoffersen, Clément Noël was able to reverse the situation, like his Olympic title acquired last winter in Beijing (6th in the first run).
Thanks to a solid, but imperfect second run, and the errors of a few competitors, Noël notched the 10th victory of his career in the World Cup, the first on the circuit since December 2021, which ends a period of personal doubts and to a worrying shortage for the Blues a few days before the Courchevel/Méribel World Championships (February 6 to 19).
“It feels really good, in the second round I managed to put things in the right order, to be in the fight, in the moment, natural, not to think too much. My skiing was smoother, more fluid, more natural. That’s how I have to ski but when you don’t have 100% confidence sometimes you can’t ski like that, ”explained the 25-year-old from Vosges in the mixed zone.
” Doubts “
“I never really doubted that I had the level to come back among the best, but I was frustrated by this start to the season where everything was coming together in the wrong direction. A bit like last year, so I felt like I was not learning from my mistakes. »
“It erases doubts”, he agreed, after a chaotic start to the season (four off the track, an 8th place, a 6th place and a 3rd place).
In the nocturnal madness of Schladming, where the public gathers all around the track, the Swiss Ramon Zenhäusern took 2nd place a breath away from the Frenchman (at 07/100). The Norwegian Lucas Braathen, 3rd at 38/100, sparked the cries of young groupies after he put the Austrians in his pocket the day before at the bib draw by wearing a T-shirt from the local hero’s fan club Manuel Feller, at the foot of the podium on Tuesday.
Far from such a party, dark clouds are gathering over the head of Alexis Pinturault, less than two weeks before the World Championships played in his resort, and a year already after a failure at the Beijing Olympics (no medal).
For the second time in three days, after Kitzbühel on Sunday, the Frenchman was unable to qualify in the second heat, without however committing a major error, finishing 31st at 4 seconds 04 from the lead. The world No.1 of 2021 immediately left the finish area, without changing, a rage contained on his face, humiliated by this gap unworthy of his record.
His setbacks in slalom, he remains on 15 races without a podium, condemn his chances in two disciplines (slalom and combined) of the World Championships if he does not find a solution by then. A little more comfortable as a giant, he is counting on the Schladming test on Wednesday to find adjustments.
The three-time Olympic medalist and five-time world medalist has insisted for several weeks on problems with his equipment. “The problem is that for the moment we are discussing with Head (his equipment supplier), and it is difficult to analyze. My feeling is that I can’t express myself as I want. We’re wasting too much time for my taste. We are working hard but it is difficult to identify and correct these problems, ”he explained to Kitzbühel.