ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Steve Missillier had never finished better than third in his World Cup career, so to win silver in the Olympic giant slalom on Wednesday following the race of his life was truly “bizarre” for the Frenchman.
While American Ted Ligety never looked in doubt for the gold, no one expected Missillier to haul himself up from 10th place after the first leg with a blistering second run in the afternoon.
Team mate Alexis Pinturault took bronze to give one of the sport’s traditional powers its first Alpine skiing medals of the Sochi Games.
“It’s a perfect run, I pushed hard, I made no mistakes. Second place is incredible for me,” Missillier said after mastering the twists and turns of the Rosa Khutor course and watching as his rivals, bar Ligety, failed to better his time.
Marcel Hirscher of Austria was pushed into fourth place, giving France its first double-podium finish in men’s Olympic skiing since 2002. Missillier’s best previous result had been third in a World Cup slalom in 2010.
“It’s something special,” said Pinturault, 22, who had crashed out of the slalom leg of the super-combined last week. He said he had been doubtful that his second run on Wednedsay would be good enough for a medal.
“At first I was a bit tense, I was worried about finishing around fourth. I was happy for (Missillier) to get on to the podium and even more happy for myself that we got the double.”
Pinturault said the result was a confidence boost for the French team but “we have to keep our feet on the ground for the slalom”, the last men’s event, which takes place on Saturday.
The 22-year-old, third in the overall World Cup standings this season, is also looking further ahead.
Of Wednesday’s result, he said: “It will stick in my memory because I share it with Steve. I‘m behind him but the future is mine if I continue to work.”
Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Robert Woodward