Austrian skier Schwarz takes big early lead in GS at worlds

COURCHEVEL, France (AP): Austrian skier Marco Schwarz posted the fastest time to take a big lead after the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the world championships Friday.

Schwarz was 0.58 seconds faster than Olympic GS champion Marco Odermatt, who has won four of the six giant slaloms on the World Cup circuit this season and took the downhill world title five days ago.

Zan Kranjec of Slovenia came 0.76 behind in third and was the only other skier to finish within a second of Schwarz’s time.

“I had a good feeling. On the top I needed a bit to get into it but I found my rhythm soon,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz had a clean run throughout but gained the most time on his rivals in the final section.

“The first run worked really well, but I need a good second, too. So it will be full attack again,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz won bronze in GS at the worlds two years ago but only got his first World Cup podium in the discipline in the last race before the worlds, in Schladming, Austria in January.

Schwarz posted the fastest second-run time in that race, which was won Loic Meillard of Switzerland. Meillard was in fourth place in Friday’s race.

Austrian skiers are yet to win an event at these championships, two years after the team led the medal table of the worlds in Italy with five golds.

A combination of slippery ice and grippy snow made the race on the shady L’Eclipse course challenging.

Defending champion Mathieu Faivre of France finished nearly four seconds off the pace.

Henrik Kristoffersen, the 2019 world GS champion, had the fastest time at the first split but struggled in the final part of his run and finished 1.41 behind in seventh.

“For me, it was really good until the final split. I was too straight and then the pace was gone,” Kristoffersen said. “(Schwarz) was good on the whole run, (Odermatt) and I were close until the last split.”

His Norwegian teammate Aleksander Aamodt Kilde skied out after missing a gate halfway through his run.

“When you lose the line, it’s hard to get into the game. And that’s what happened and I had no chance,” said Kilde, the 2020 overall World Cup champion who won silver in downhill and super-G last week. “That’s how it is when they set it so turny; then the specialists and the people that hit a perfect run, they can nail it. But then there’s only two of them and then the rest is struggling and (are) far behind. It would be a little bit fun to see a tighter race.”