Giant slalom joy breaks Raich's gold duck
Two bronze medals in 2002 had given Austria's Benjamin Raich a taste for success. In Turin, his horizons expanded, with hopes that he could take two or three gold medals.
The first looked like coming in the combined. Raich was leading the event after the first of the two slaloms and was only about 15 seconds from the end when he missed a gate. His hopes of victory were immediately shattered, and the medal slipped from his grasp.
Six days later, after dwelling on his surprise defeat, he returned to action in the giant slalom. Perhaps the disappointment still weighed upon him as he set only the fifth fastest time in the opening run. The great Hermann Maier was third, with the lead belonging to the unlikely figure of Canadian François Bourque.
After that, though, inspiration kicked in. Raich began the second run knowing he was 0.34secs off the lead, and he responded with a performance that was almost flawless. As Bourque failed to repeat the speed of his first run, Frenchman Joë Chanel was the nearest challenger. Second after the opening run, he was 0.22secs behind Raich this time around – giving the Austrian victory by just 0.07secs. Chanel took silver, Maier the bronze.
Now Raich had the first gold medal of his Olympic career. He only had to wait two days to get the second, as Austria enjoyed a sweep of medals in the slalom. It was Raich who was the clear winner, though, finishing his second run 0.83secs ahead of Reinfried Herbst in second and more than a second ahead of bronze medallist Rainer Schönfelder.
It was the first time Austrian skiers had taken all three medals in the slalom, and it came on a tough course in which only half the skiers managed to complete two runs.