Canadians miss podium as Switzerland's Odermatt captures giant slalom gold in rough conditions

Marco Odermatt is the World Cup giant slalom leader for a reason, and he showed why on Sunday, skiing to his first Olympic gold medal through difficult snow

Canada's Erik Read misses medals, improves time in 2nd run to finish 13th

Erik Read, seen above, was Canada's highest finisher amid difficult conditions in the men's giant slalom of Team Canada reacts following his run during the Men's Giant Slalom (Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The conditions were far from favourable for the men's Olympic giant slalom, with skiers battling through flat light, clouds and an incredible amount of snow.

The weather was surprising for an Olympic Games that had only seen the sun and perfect snow thus far.

Switzerland's Marco Odermatt continued his domination of giant slalom in 2021-22, winning the Olympic event with a time of 2:09.25, the fastest over two runs. The 24-year-old had already won four of the five World Cup giant slalom races this season and continued his clean skiing under challenging conditions at the Yanqing National Alpine Center.

"You can't see much; you don't know where to put your feet," he said. "Luckily, the surface is quite icy, quite regular from start to finish, so I succeeded in producing a pretty good first run."

Erik Read, a native of Canmore, Alta., finished 16th after the first run, 1.64 seconds back of the lead, before a faster second run moved him up to 13th, in line with where he tends to finish on the World Cup.

While the result placed him in the middle of the pack, it was not as he hoped after coming into the Games as an outside podium contender, having earned a top 10 finish five times in his career.

Read's second run was significantly faster. However, a small bump in the third quarter of the course pushed him back on his skis and off his line, forcing him to give up speed to stabilize.

"It was tough weather. It was a really turny [course] set, the turniest we've seen all year, but the snow was still great and with that you can trust that when you throw yourself into it, that the skis will react," Read told CBC Sports' Kelly Vanderbeek. "I knew I had left some time on the slope first run, so that was my attitude to take speed on the second."

Trevor Philp, of Banff, Alta., had a clean run but finished in 24th position, 9.73 seconds back after the two runs.

After crossing the super-G finish line in the top 10, the three-time Olympian was hopeful of improving on his Olympic best.

Slovenia's Zan Krajec came close to picking up his first Olympic gold but ended with a silver medal to go with his eight World Cup podiums.

After the first run, and through the start of the second, it looked as though Austria's Steffan Brennsteiner was bound for bronze — but after his fall, France's Mathieu Faivre secured his spot on the podium.

Odermatt, the world's first-ranked skier in the discipline, took the deserved gold. However, it was a benchmark day for other athletes, like Jamaica's Benjamin Alexander, who became the first Olympic skier from the island nation.

WATCH | Benjamin Alexander becomes 1st Jamaican Olympic alpine skier:

Cool Runnings 2: Benjamin Alexander becomes 1st Jamaican Olympic alpine skier

10 months ago
Duration 1:00
Benjamin Alexander became Jamaica's first Olympic alpine skier when he completed his first run in the men's giant slalom event at Beijing 2022.

With Switzerland on the top of the podium by virtue of Odermatt, the nation ties Austria with five golds, the most a single nation has won in the men's Olympic giant slalom.

With gold around his neck, Odermatt and the tech skiers regroup for the slalom on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. ET, and the mixed team event on Feb. 18, both streaming live on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBC Sports' Beijing 2022 website.

With files from The Associated Press

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