Italy’s Razzoli wins Olympic men’s slalom

  • Sat Feb 27th, 2010 3:36pm
  • Sports

Associated Press

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Giuliano Razzoli won the Olympic slalom Saturday and gave Italy its first Alpine gold medal of the Vancouver Games.

Razzoli was the first-leg leader and had a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 39.32 seconds to become the first Italian man to win an Alpine medal since his mentor, the flamboyant Alberto Tomba, took slalom silver at Lillehammer in 1994. Tomba won the slalom at Calgary in 1988, and was the last Italian man to win a gold, in the giant slalom at Albertville in 1992.

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was 0.16 behind Razzoli for his second silver medal of these Olympics, after being runner-up to Bode Miller in super-combined last Sunday.

Andre Myhrer of Sweden got bronze, 0.44 behind, for the first Alpine medal for Sweden’s men in 22 years.

Defending champion Benjamin Raich was fourth, 0.05 off the podium, leaving Austria’s powerful men’s team without a medal just four years after they won eight at Turin. They best they could do in Vancouver was three fourth-place finishes.

Miller skied out just eight seconds and less than 50 meters into his first run, ending his chance to become the first man to win four Alpine medals in the same Olympics.

Razzoli raised both arms in triumph on crossing the finish line.

“It’s incredible,” Razzolli said. “I’m happy for my country.”

Tomba, working for Italian television, was at the mountain to support his protege and sent his usual text message an hour before the race.

Later, as Razzoli passed through the interview area after taking more than a half-second lead in the first run, Tomba said: “I told you to take it easy the first run and attack the second.”

Razzoli, who comes from the same Emilia Romagna region as Tomba, responded: “I know, I know, but I couldn’t stop myself.”

Razzoli was making his Olympics debut, though he skied as a forerunner testing the slalom course at the 2006 Turin Games.

Kostelic was fourth-fastest in the morning but moved up to claim his third career Olympic silver. He also was runner-up behind Ted Ligety of the United States in traditional combined at the 2006 Turin Games.

Myhrer leaped on to the podium thanks to the best second-leg time — 0.46 faster than any rival — after being 10th in the morning.

The 27-year-old Swede had a single career World Cup victory, at Beaver Creek, Colo., three seasons ago, but was second behind Kostelic at Wengen, Switzerland, last month.

Raich fell just short of claiming his fifth career Olympic medal, which would have made him the most decorated Austrian Alpine skier in games history. He is tied at four with Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter, both now retired.

Miller was trying to become the first man to win four Alpine medals in the same Olympics but straddled the fifth gate less than 50 meters into his run. Miller stood by the side of the course looking mystified by his mistake.

“I just hooked a tip and it’s obviously disappointing when you’re fired up and you’re skiing well and everything’s there,” said Miller, who got gold in the super-combined, silver in the super-G and bronze in downhill.

Skiers raced in some of the toughest conditions of an Olympic Alpine program where weather and course surfaces were a constant factor.

Wet snow, rain and a soupy fog affected visibility in the morning and softened the Dave Murray course in the first leg. It was staging a sixth race following the women’s slalom with 87 starters Friday.

Course workers spread fertilizer and thousands of gallons of water on the track to bind and harden the slushy surface. Slalom racers prefer an icy crust which allows them to carve tight turns on their sharp-edged skis.