Racing conditions were not the best, and that played right into Marc Girardelli's hands.
The combative skier, who seems to thrive on adversity as the lone member of the Luxembourg team, overcame a course he hated and could barely see to win the gold medal in the men's combined Friday at the World Alpine Ski Championships.The event was delayed an hour by fog, and Girardelli said he didn't expect to race.
"I had to take some chances because the visibility was poor," he said. "I was a little surprised to go to the start and have such a good run.
"I don't like this course because there are only two or three turns. It is practically straight all the way. I am a technical skier, not a glider. I'm thankful my skis were right for the conditions."
Girardelli's competitors had conceded him the title even before he completed the downhill portion of the event. His third-place finish in a slalom Monday had put him squarely in command entering the last phase.
"We all had practically no chance to beat Girardelli," said Austria's Guenther Mader. "He is too tough."
Girardelli finished a mere one-hundredth of a second behind pacesetter Michael Mair of Italy in the combined downhill. And that gave the stocky, 25-year-old a clearcut victory that enabled him to defend the title he won at the last World Championships,in 1987.
It also left him as the only skier with a realistic chance to win gold medals in all five events at these championships.
Girardelli, however, seemed reluctant to entertain such thoughts. "Others here have chances for four or five medals," he said. "I'm just happy to have won this event. This was my first goal. There was a lot of pressure on me. I don't have time to think about the future."
Paul Accola of Switzerland survived an out-of-control run to claim the silver medal, and Mader took the bronze. Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen, rebounding from a bad fall during practice Wednesday, finished fourth in the combined.
Girardelli, the World Cup overall standings leader and the hottest skier on the men's circuit with three triumphs in the last four downhills, easily overtook the top two slalom finishers - Norway's Ole Christian Furuseth and Sweden's Jonas Nilsson, both of whom rarely compete in downhill.