Jean-Baptiste Grange of France made a superb comeback in the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup men's slalom opener at Levi. Sunday's slalom was Grange's first complete World Cup race since he injured his knee last December at Beaver Creek.
After having built a solid lead in the first run, Grange skied solid and 2nd fastest 2nd run to win over Andre Myhrer of Sweden by 0.33 seconds. Myhrer posted the fastest 2nd run to move from 4th to 2nd place. Ivica Kostelic (CRO) completed the podium, +0.97 behind. Cristian Neville (ITA), who skied with bib #27, finished 4th, with Manfred Pranger (AUT) in 5th.
"It's a special victory. Listening to the national anthem almost made me cry," said Grange after the awards ceremony at Levi, Finland on Sunday afternoon.
Jean-Baptiste Grange won the slalom at Levi for the first time in 2008. Last year he took third.
"I didn't expect to win today, but I definitely felt much more relaxed than in Soelden. It's a perfect day for me.""It was a good race. I'm especially happy with my second run," said 2nd placed Myhrer. "I really want to win the slalom World Cup one day. This gave me a lot of confidence for the future," he added.
Also Croatia's Ivica Kostelić had an impressive second run. He grabbed the third spot, having stood in the 6th place after the first leg."I tried not to risk too much. It's important to achieve solid results in the beginning of the season," Kostelić said.
In addition to his performance in the race, Kostelić was asked about the importance of the World Cup event at Levi as a whole:"Levi definitely belongs in the World Cup calendar. It's good to show people that proper alpine skiing competitions can be organized elsewhere besides the Alps or in the United States or Canada."
This time the course at Levi Black slope proved to be a difficult one, especially the first run that had some tricky course setting along two rolls, which resulted in a total of 32 DNF's, 30 of those in the first run. Finland's Kalle Palander couldn't make use of the crowd support for his comeback slalom on home snow. He missed a gate early on and was disqualified.
"It was a rookie mistake, embarrassing, really. Now it's time for a short holiday," said Palander.
The men's World Cup continues in Lake Louise, Canada on 24th-28th November. For the ladies, next up is Aspen, USA on 27–28th November.
Contributed by World Cup Levi Media Services