COURCHEVEL, France (AP) — The family legacy in Courchevel began nearly half a century ago when Andre and Christiane Pinturault opened the high-altitude Hotel Annapurna.
On Tuesday, Alexis Pinturault won a gold medal on home snow just down the road at the world championships to enrich the family imprint on the posh French resort where his grandparents laid their foundations in 1974.
“To share this with the French people and also the Courchevel people is something really amazing and special,” the 31-year-old Pinturault said after dethroning defending champion Marco Schwarz of Austria in a close finish of the combined race.
As a child, Pinturault also tried ski jumping — the hill is located adjacent to the finish of Tuesday’s race — and cross-country skiing.
“That was the thing with the Courchevel ski club: when you are young, you can try many different sports. Then you can choose afterward,” he said.
“I chose Alpine skiing because that’s the discipline that gave me the most pleasure.”
Pinturault certainly had pleasure in his hometown Tuesday, ending a drought of nearly two years.
In a tricky slalom run on a steep pitch, the Frenchman retained his lead from the super-G portion to edge Schwarz by 0.10 seconds.
The combined event adds the times from one super-G run and one slalom run.
The Austrian, second after the first leg, seemed headed for the victory when leading Pinturault by 0.30 seconds at the final split but he made a costly mistake at the fourth-to-last gate.
“In my village, where I live, to win a gold medal here, that will be a super memory,” Pinturault said after earning his 10th career medal, and third gold, from major championships.
“A perfect day, a super performance in the super-G and also a good performance in the slalom. For me, this is a sensational day.”
Pinturault previously won the world title in 2019, but was beaten to gold by Schwarz two years later. He also took Olympic silver in 2018. He dominated the discipline when it was still part of the World Cup circuit until 2020, winning six of the last eight season titles.
However, Pinturault had not won a race since March 2021 in a World Cup giant slalom in Switzerland to wrap up the overall title on his 30th birthday.
The Frenchman has been struggling this season, with a third place from a super-G in Beaver Creek in early December his only podium result.
“It’s amazing what’s coming out today and I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” said Pinturault, who suffered from a fever in recent days.
Just like Pinturault, Schwarz also had only one top-three result on the circuit.
He trailed the Frenchman by just 0.06 after the super-G portion, but won time on every split in the slalom until near the end of his run.
“I had a little mistake before the finish line but all in all it was a good day,” Schwarz said. “I lost gold right before the finish. But I made it to the finish and am happy with my silver medal.”
Schwarz’s teammate, Raphael Haaser, finished 0.44 behind to win bronze, a day after his sister, Ricarda Haaser, also took bronze in the women’s combined.
They became the first siblings to medal at the same worlds since 2003, when Croatian standout Ivica Kostelic took slalom gold in St. Moritz and his sister, Janica Kostelic, won the title in both slalom and combined.
American skier River Radamus held on to his position from the super-G portion and finished fourth, missing a medal by a quarter of a second.
Radamus had mixed feelings after matching his best career result at a major event, a year after coming fourth in the GS at the Beijing Olympics. The American said he was satisfied with his approach, not with his result.
“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said. “I showed myself that if I connect on this hill in the Super G and hopefully in the GS, I can compete with anybody. So I got to take that momentum, take the intensity and stay hungry for those other events.”
Johannes Strolz, the Olympic champion, had a disappointing showing as the Austrian trailed Pinturault by 2.48 seconds after the super-G before not finishing the slalom, his strongest event.
Marco Odermatt, who is dominating the circuit, was disqualified for missing a gate shortly before the finish of his super-G. Several others, including Olympic silver medalist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and two-time world champion Vincent Kriechmayr, used the super-G only as training for Thursday’s race and did not start in the slalom portion.
The next event at the worlds is the women’s super-G on Wednesday.
Willemsen reported from Vienna.
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