Austria’s Strolz in pole after Olympic slalom first leg

YANQING (AFP): Austria’s Johannes Strolz sat in pole position of the men’s Olympic slalom after topping times for the first leg on Wednesday.

Strolz, who won gold in the alpine combined at the Beijing Games, clocked 53.92 seconds down the “Ice River” course in Yanqing in bitterly cold, sunny conditions.

The Norwegian pair of Henrik Kristoffersen and world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag were just hundredths of a second adrift in what promises to be one of the most open races in recent history.

Of the six World Cup races held this season, there have been five different winners, while 14 different racers have made the podium.

Apart from Strolz and Foss-Solevaag, other winners on the circuit include France’s Clement Noel, Lucas Braathen of Switzerland, Germany’s Linus Strasser and Britain’s Dave Ryding.

Braathen skied out but the rest remained in the reckoning with the second leg scheduled for 1:45pm (0545 GMT).

“Fifty percent good, 50 percent not — in the finish a little far off than I wanted,” said Ryding, winner of the latest World Cup slalom in Kitzbuehel and 1.21sec off Strolz’s pace.

“The skiing was good at the top but I didn’t adapt to the change in terrain. It is a two-run race and I will try again,” he told BBC.

“You are always more in the zone on the second one, you are ready to go, it is not over, the fat lady is not singing yet.”