Odermatt Takes 12th Straight Giant Slalom

There may come a day when the combination of a gruelling schedule, hungry rivals and some imperfect skiing finally catches up to Marco Odermatt (SUI) on a giant slalom slope and causes him to actually lose a race. But today was not that day.

Odermatt made it nine from nine in giant slalom this season in Aspen on Saturday, winning his 12th straight race in the discipline dating back to last season to continue a run that is threatening the longest winning streak in World Cup history.

The Swiss star's determination was on full display as he came from behind and recovered from errors on both runs to defeat ever-improving teammate Loic Meillard (SUI, +0.34s), with Timon Haugan (NOR, +0.58s) in third.

"I really don't know what to say anymore, it's crazy," said Odermatt, whose winning streak looked over after he made a big mistake early in the second run when his outside ski flew into the air and he almost missed a gate.

"I know the mistake happened in the steep part so I knew, 'Come on, it's still possible,' but I got so low as well in the flat," he said.

"I didn't really expect that it will be enough with this mistake but I also knew that it was perfect in the second half of the run. Incredible that it really works every time, I don't know why."

Odermatt recovered from his error to post the fastest closeout in the second run to take the lead, and then he held on for the win when the two skiers in front of him after the first run, Meillard and halfway leader Alexander Steen Olsen (NOR), failed to overtake him.

The Swiss ace now has the second-longest winning streak in one discipline in World Cup history, moving ahead of Annemarie Moser-Proell's (AUT) downhill run of 11 and trailing only Ingemar Stenmark's (SWE) record of 14, also in giant slalom.

Odermatt can equal Stenmark by winning the remaining two giant slalom races this season, in Kranjska Gora next Saturday and at the World Cup finals in Saalbach.

As his streak continues, Odermatt admitted that the record is on his mind.

"I feel nervous these days and at the start because I know you really have to win for this record, not just good skiing, you really have to win," he said. "If you're so close, for sure you want to get it but it's so difficult every race.

"I'm just enjoying it as long as I can keep going for the record."

And that's not the only record Odermatt's chasing. The 26-year-old now sits on 1,902 points for the season, 140 short of the men's all-time high that he set a year ago. He will likely compete in four more races this season and, barring injury or a dramatic loss of form, he seems almost certain to set a new mark.

As for the rest of the field, they can do little but watch on and applaud.

"People don't really understand what he's actually doing," said Meillard, who finished runner-up to his teammate for the second day in a row.

"At the moment, he's on a different planet. He can do mistakes, he can do everything he wants, but he still goes fast and that's what's crazy."

Meillard reached his fourth podium of the season and, having done so in three different disciplines, he continues to establish himself as one of the best all-rounders on the tour, along with Odermatt and the injured Marco Schwarz (AUT).

Top results in three disciplines is currently out of Haugan's reach, but he can at least now perform at a high level in two of them after reaching his first World Cup giant slalom podium to go along with three in slalom.

"I still can't believe it," said Haugan, who started with bib No.16 and whose career-best giant slalom result heading into the race was 10th.

"My goal this year was to make it in the top 30 in GS and it's gone way past my goals.

"Since I was young I always pictured myself having two disciplines in the top of the world. Slalom has been good for some years and I've worked a lot in the GS to get on the same level."

Haugan's podium was confirmed when the last skier on the mountain, Steen Olsen, made a huge mistake in the upper mid-section of the course, scrubbing off all his speed and ultimately consigning him to 17th position.

"It's a little mixed feelings when I get the third place because of my teammate (messing up), but for sure I'm very, very happy," Haugan said.

Both Haugan and Meillard will hope their form carries over to Sunday's slalom, and with Odermatt not racing, the top step of the podium could finally be there for the taking.

For the Americans  U.S. Ski Team athlete Tommy Ford led the way for the U.S. squad, finishing 16th place and taking the third fastest time on second run.

“I knew it was fast and it felt fast in the bottom section especially,” said Ford.

The conditions Saturday resembled more of an ice rink as the watering and injection from the week prior set extra well the night before. The world’s best were not phased by the icy conditions, putting on a show for the Aspen crowd. River Radamus kicked things off first for the team running third, but got inside at the third gate, leaning in and barely making the next few gates. He squeaked it into the top 30 for a second run. Ford skied solidly with some mistakes to finish 26th first run. Lastly, Isaiah Nelson skied speedily to tie Radamus in 30th, his first time making a second run on the World Cup tour.

While it was not the first run the team was hoping for, they prepared mentally to attack the second run. Radamus ran first and immediately went into the lead and ended up 22nd. Nelson was on fire, knifing every turn and posting fast split. But he unfortunately bobbled right before the finish and did not finish.

Ford saw his opportunity and seized it, skiing the best run of his season going into the lead. He ended up moving up 10 spots to 16th place and notched the third fastest second run.

“Consistency was key today and not doing too much between runs,” said Ford. “It’s hard to be patient up there but I was able to do it and it felt good. I am going to focus on what I’m doing.”

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