Clement Noel, the reigning men’s Olympic slalom champion, signaled a dramatic return to form at just the right time by claiming victory in front of 45,000 screaming fans in Schladming’s famous night slalom.
Noel arrived in Austria having failed to finish five of his 10 World Cup slalom races since winning Olympic gold in Beijing 11 months ago, picking up just two podium places along the way.
But with the 2023 FIS Alpine Skiing World Championships starting on home snow in Courchevel Meribel in just 13 days, the Frenchman powered his way to the top spot.
“It was tough the beginning of the season, that’s why it feels so special to win here tonight because I struggled a lot, with the confidence and everything,” said Noel, after jumping up from seventh after one run to finish ahead of another skier who had been struggling for form, Ramon Zenhaeusern.
“Lots of DNFs (did not finish) at the beginning of the season. I was not so fast. I was fast in training but not really in races so I was kind of wondering how I could get back to the top,” a delighted Noel added.
Old friend, and one of the only men taller than him on the World Cup circuit, Zenhaeusern was equally over-joyed to find his best under the Austrian lights.
“It’s one of the (most) emotional podiums in my career because I started in 25th position at the beginning of the season (in the rankings),” said Zenhaeusern.