Braathen leads first run of World Cup slalom race
ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP) — Close friends since childhood, Lucas Braathen and Atle Lie McGrath fulfilled their shared dream Sunday by finishing 1-2 in a World Cup ski race.
Braathen, who is two days older than his fellow 22-year-old McGrath, got the win in a slalom to extend Norway’s dominating run in the discipline.
Sporting his trademark painted fingernails — mostly black with one yellow smile emoji — Braathen retained his first-run lead to finish 0.71 seconds ahead. Linus Strasser of Germany was 0.92 back in third.
Braathen skied into the finish area and right into the arms of McGrath who was waiting to congratulate him with an exuberant hug.
“It’s incredible,” Braathen said. “I see green lights and the first person I see is my partner in crime Atle.
“It’s a day me and Atle have been dreaming for since the day we started skiing,” said Braathen of their childhood together at the Bærums club in Norway. “I can’t believe we are finally here.”
Braathen’s fifth career World Cup win, and third in slalom, lifted him atop the season-long discipline standings.
Norwegian racers have now won seven of the eight men’s World Cup slaloms since the Beijing Olympics last February. Braathen and McGrath have two of those wins apiece.
Braathen, whose mother is Brazilian, also won the first slalom of the season last month at Val d’Isere, France.
The American-born McGrath got his best result since ending last season with back-to-back slalom wins. His father Felix raced for the United States team in the 1980s including at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
McGrath delighted another noisy crowd in Adelboden by emulating Swiss downhill great Didier Cuche's trademark post-race move — kicking off his right ski with an end-over-end spin and catching it with his right hand.
“I nailed the Cuche flip," McGrath said. "I met Didier earlier and I didn’t even know he was here. That’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
Braathen took the standings lead from teammate Henrik Kristoffersen, who finished outside the top 30 racers in the morning run and did not qualify for the second leg.
Norway's world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag skied out midway down the first run on the storied Chuesnisbärgli hill.
Braathen won at the venue where two years ago he suffered a season-ending knee injury crashing through the finish line in the classic giant slalom. On his return last year, he stopped his giant slalom run approaching the drop into the finish rather than tackle the slope again.
“Obviously, I don’t have the best history with the giant slalom in Adelboden but the slalom has been quite a good experience,” Braathen said Sunday after his fast first run. “I need to separate the two.”
With 100 World Cup points for sealing the race win, Braathen leads by just nine points in the slalom standings from Manuel Feller, who placed seventh Sunday.
Strasser sealed his second podium finish this season and pointed first to the black armband he wore on his left arm and then to the sky.
It was a tribute to German ski great Rosi Mittermaier, a double gold medalist at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics who died this week aged 72. Her son Felix Neureuther was a teammate of Strasser until retiring in 2019.
McGrath said Neureuther, a three-time world championships medalist in slalom, is an idol of his and had sent a motivational message to the Norwegian for his races this weekend.
Sunday’s race was run under heavy cloud cover with temperatures rising to 4 degrees Celsius (40 Fahrenheit) in the afternoon to continue the unusually warm winter in Europe.
The men’s World Cup circuit stays in Switzerland at nearby Wengen for a scheduled super-G on Friday, the classic Lauberhorn downhill Saturday and a Sunday slalom. Braathen won at Wengen last year despite placing 29th in the first run.
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