Norwegian Lucas Braathen signaled his arrival and further ushered in a new generation of male Alpine skiers by notching his first World Cup podium, a victory at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday.
Braathen, 20, jumped from fifth after the first run to win by .05 over fellow rising star Marco Odermatt of Switzerland on the Rettenbach glacier. Swiss veteran Gino Caviezel was third, .46 behind for his first podium at age 28.
“Victory is too much to ask for,” said Braathen, who has a Brazilian mother and grew up playing soccer. “I know that my mental side is strong. I know that my technical skiing has improved a lot. I knew that I was capable of a podium.”
Braathen became the first male World Cup race winner born in the 2000s. Plus, the youngest man to win a World Cup since countryman Henrik Kristoffersen six years ago.
In 2019, Braathen earned world junior silver and bronze medals in the super-G and the combined. Last season, he recorded his first World Cup top-10 in a parallel race, then his best finish — fourth — in a slalom.
“Goal for this season was, obviously, managing my first podiums, establishing myself in consecutive top-fives, top-10s,” Braathen said, noting a focus on slalom, GS and the junior worlds.
Braathen and Odermatt, 23, outperformed the top skiers in recent seasons, the veterans tasked with leading the tour after eight-time World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher‘s retirement last year.
France’s Alexis Pinturault was fourth. Kristoffersen tied for fifth. Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, last season’s surprise overall winner whose strengths are downhill and super-G, failed to finish his first run.
A year after Austria failed to put a man in the top 10 in Soelden for the first time, the powerhouse dipped further to a best finish of 17th. Hirscher is missed.
Tommy Ford was the top American in 22nd overall. Ted Ligety, a four-time Soelden winner, was 10th in the first run and lost his left ski early in his second run.
Odermatt, who won four individual titles at the 2018 World Junior Championships, backed up a strong 2019-20 season, where he won the Beaver Creek super-G and placed second in a GS.
“We’re here to stay, and we’re here to do damage,” Braathen said of the youth group.
The Alpine skiing World Cup returns Nov. 13-14 with men’s and women’s parallel events, also in Austria.
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