From 29th to 1st! Stunning World Cup slalom result in Wengen

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WENGEN, Switzerland — Soaring from 29th place after the first run, Lucas Braathen scored a stunning win in a World Cup slalom on Sunday.

Braathen sat in the finish-area leader’s box for 45 minutes looking steadily more disbelieving until watching the last racer, his Norway teammate Henrik Kristoffersen, straddle a gate within sight of a clear victory.

The error gifted the win to Braathen who was almost one second faster than any rival in the second run on snow that was cutting up in the warm sunshine.

In the end, Braathen was 0.22 seconds ahead of Daniel Yule of Switzerland. The 2010 Olympic champion, Guiliano Razzoli of Italy, was 0.29 back in third for his best result in six years at age 37.

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Braathen’s win was also remarkable for starting the day among the low-ranked racers wearing bib No. 31.

It was the second straight Sunday that a Swiss slalom was won by an outsider, after Johannes Strolz wore No. 38 to victory at nearby Adelboden.

“Words cannot describe how grateful I am,” said the 21-year-old Braathen, whose ranking dipped after a season-ending knee injury one year ago in the Adelboden giant slalom.

Before his serious injury, Braathen showed his talent by winning the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden, Austria in October 2020.

Braathen had also been fast in the first run Sunday, until losing his rhythm in the bottom half to barely qualify among the top 30 racers who advance to the second leg.

“After my mistake in the first run I was eager to redeem myself in the second,” said Braathen, whose father is Norwegian and mother Brazilian.

Braathen was helped by getting early use of the second run snow surface and a gate setting designed by a Norway team coach.

A steep and tricky middle section saw several racers crash out. Italian prospect Alex Vinatzer lost one ski, Christian Hirschbuehl of Austria lost both and Luca Aerni of Switzerland was launched into the air with both skis high off the snow.

All three men on the podium posted their best results of the season, and Yule’s runner-up finish was the best by a Swiss slalom skier at Wengen for 23 years.

Razzoli now has four straight top-10 finishes in a career-reviving season heading to the Beijing Olympics next month.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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