OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. (AP)Norwegian ski racer Alexander Steen Olsen earned his first World Cup win after AJ Ginnis of Greece was disqualified for missing a gate in a slalom event held on a snowy Sunday at the Palisades Tahoe resort.
With the visibility deteriorating as the snow picked up intensity, Steen Olsen turned in a clean pass through the tricky course set to finish in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 47.47 seconds. Fellow Norwegian racer Timon Haugan was 0.05 seconds behind in second. There was a tie for third between Bulgaria’s Albert Popov, who made a charge from well back in the pack, and first-run leader Clement Noel of France.
The podium took several minutes to sort out as officials reviewed the run of Ginnis, who came down in first place but appeared to straddle a gate. In one video angle, it was tough to tell due to a cloud of snow near his carving ski. The missed gate was eventually confirmed.
”I feel sorry for AJ,” Steen Olsen said. ”But that’s the sport. It’s on the limit.”
Ginnis was once with the U.S. ski team before becoming a member of Greece’s squad. He was second in the slalom at the Alpine skiing world championships on Feb. 19.
In 12th place after the first run, Steen Olsen took calculated risks to pick up the win. Before Sunday, his previous best World Cup finish was fourth in a giant slalom race last month in Austria.
”It’s so unbelievable,” Steen Olsen said after the race. ”I don’t know what to say. It’s so crazy.”
The men’s World Cup circuit was making a stop at the Palisades Tahoe resort for the first time since 1969. Before Steen Olsen’s performance, the last racer to win a men’s World Cup slalom race at the venue was Billy Kidd.
It was a tight competition Sunday, with 14 racers finishing within 0.82 seconds of Steen Olsen’s winning time. The conditions didn’t bother him.
”I’m from Norway. There is a lot of snow also,” Steen Olsen cracked. ”Just tried to go for it.”
Popov, who was 25th after his first run, rocketed up the leaderboard – on a course set up by his coach – to earn his first career World Cup podium spot.
”I’ve been waiting so much,” Popov said of a podium finish. ”The form is good. Today, I had a little bit of luck.”
Noel, the reigning Olympic slalom champion, had a solid run going until near the bottom of the hill.
”It was quite tough,” Noel said of the conditions. ”The snow was OK, but the visibility, the weather, was really difficult for the second run. … At the end, I’m pretty happy wit the podium.”
The men’s World Cup circuit now heads to Aspen, Colorado, for speed races next weekend.
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