Sweden’s Sara Hector wins gold in the women’s giant slalom at the Beijing Olympics

BEIJING – Swedish skier Sara Hector capped a recent career resurgence in the best possible way, winning the gold medal in the women’s giant slalom at the Beijing Olympics on Monday for her first individual victory in a major championship.

29-year-old Hector finished two runs along a course known as The Ice River at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center in an unofficial combined time of 1 minute 55.69 seconds. She was the fastest downhill in the first heat and an eighth fastest in the second stage was enough for her to resist.

Italian Federica Brignone was 0.28 seconds slower on both legs, adding a silver medal to the bronze she won in the GS at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games behind champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who fell during Monday’s opening run a few hours. before and was eliminated.

Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami was third, 0.72 behind Hector, and now has another bronze to match the one she collected downhill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

When Hector crossed the finish line, she raised her ski poles over her head and screamed in celebration, before being hugged by Brignone and Gut-Behrami.

Hector took his first World Cup race win in December 2014, and then waited seven years for number 2 last December. And suddenly, as if he had discovered the secret of success, in January he turned numbers 3 and 4. Everyone was in a giant slalom.

Now, in February, Hector has his most important triumph of all.

His past at the top alpine skiing events? In four races in two previous trips to the Olympics, Hector has never fared better than 10th place. And in 10 individual races in six world championship appearances, the best he did was finish seventh. (Although he has participated in three team event medals at the World Cup.)

After winning two weeks ago in San Vigilio di Marebbe, Italy, Hector tried to explain this recent race that took her to the top of the World Cup giant slalom rankings heading to Beijing.

She said she is “easily in crisis” and that it has created problems for her. But lately, Hector said, she’s been able to “feel really calm” and that allows her to focus better.

“It took me a long time to figure out what I need,” he said later. “Now I know a lot more about what I need, and it was nice to find out.”

Monday’s race was delayed by about 15 minutes when American Nina O’Brien, who was sixth fastest in the opening heat, slipped across the finish line, screaming in pain, after tripping through the last gate as the her skis crossed in front of her. She was checked by medical personnel and US team personnel before being taken away on a sled.

US ski team spokesperson Megan Harrod said O’Brien was “alert and responsive”.

Previously, Frenchwoman Tessa Worley, holder of four world titles and currently runner-up in the GS World Cup rankings, fell down the lower part of the course, hitting a gate as she was attempting a left turn. She turned around, lost a ski and slid down the hill before climbing up and making the rest of the way to the bottom.