Friday, February 17, 2023, saw the Men’s Giant Slalom at the 2023 World Championships in Courchevel and Méribél, France. Victory went to Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt—silver to his teammate Loic Meillard and Bronze to Austria’s Marco Schwarz.
One hundred starters were battling it out for the title of Giant Slalom World Champion. US representatives in the starting gate were Tommy Ford, River Radamus, and Brian McLaughlin.
Favorite for the Giant Slalom race was Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, who is currently point leader in the World Cup rankings with four wins in that discipline and is also the 2022 Beijing Giant Slalom Gold medal winner. The Giant Slalom consists of two runs, and the combined time determines the victor.
The Swiss were in second place after the first run, while Austria’s Marco Schwarz was first with 0.58 seconds ahead of Odermatt. Third-placed Zan Kranjec from Solvenia was 0.76 seconds behind the Austrian, while more than a third of the competitors did not finish the first run of the rather challenging Giant Slalom course, including podium hopeful Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
The second run in Giant Slalom is run in reverse order for the top 30 ranked skiers from the first run. The last five skiers are always the most closely watched competitors, so all eyes were on Austria’s Manuel Feller, who had been placed in fifth, 1.27 seconds behind his leading teammate Marco Schwarz. Feller’s time was promising, but the Austrian made a mistake on the lower section of the run, causing him to miss a gate in the shady part of the course, resulting in a DNF.
Next up was Switzerland’s Loic Meillard, who put down a near-flawless run — the fastest second run of the day — catapulting the Swiss into the lead. However, with three skiers to go, the podium was still wide open. Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec could not beat Meillard’s time and slipped down the ranks. That meant a podium was now guaranteed for the Swiss. Loic’s teammate Odermatt was next in the starting gate, a Swiss double podium was likely. Odermatt delivered a fierce run — not as fast as Meillard — but enough to take the lead. The last skier from the top 30 finishers of the first run was Marco Schwarz, but the Austrian struggled with the now very rutted course, finishing 1.21 seconds slower than the Swiss on his second run, dropping him from first into third.
The victory is Odermatt’s first World Championship victory in Giant Slalom. The Swiss also won the Downhill last week at the 2023 World Championships, which is a rare feat, as the former is a technical discipline and the latter is a speed discipline. Not many skiers have been able to win both, especially not in the same year. The last time a World Champion won both Downhill and Giant Slalom was in 2007 when Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal managed to break the almost 40-year dry spell of this achievement.
Team USA skier River Radamus finished 12th overall after delivering the third-fastest second run of the day — an impressive feat. Brian McLaughlin finished in 20th. Tommy Ford was looking good on the top section of the second run but slid out, resulting in a DNF, which would have been devastating given he had placed 16th on his first run, four places ahead of River’s first run. Regardless, it was a strong performance by the US technical team.