BEIJING (AP) — Just like his father did more than three decades ago, Austrian skier Johannes Strolz won the Olympic gold medal in the Alpine combined race.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even on the national team until about a month ago. The 29-year-old Strolz, who has only ever won one World Cup slalom, was fourth fastest after the downhill run on Thursday. But he was half a second quicker than anyone else in the slalom, helping him edge first-run leader Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway by 0.58 seconds.
The combined adds the times from one downhill run and one slalom run.
Strolz’s father, Hubert, won gold in combined at the 1988 Calgary Games. Hubert Strolz also won silver in the giant slalom that year and almost won another Olympic combined four years later but missed a gate near the end of the second run and was disqualified.
“It’s really a great moment for me and I’m so thankful that I finally can live my dream and have this gold medal in my hands like my father did in 1988 in Calgary and, yeah, just a dream come true,” Strolz said. “The gold medal really means the world to me.”
Strolz had a career-best finish of 10th in more than eight years of World Cup racing before winning last month in Adelboden, when he wasn’t even an official member of the Austrian team after being dropped.
That victory, however, earned him a spot on the team for the Beijing Games, where he is continuing to prepare his own slalom skis — as he has done all season. A member of the team prepares Strolz’s downhill skis.
“It is truly an amazing story,” said Andreas Puelacher, the head coach of Austria’s men’s team. “We knew he was a fast skier in the downhill side and in slalom you’ve seen Adelboden, it was perfect. And after the downhill (today) I can imagine he can make a medal but gold medal it’s another story.
“I think he had no pressure today. He was successful in Adelboden ... and for him it was easy skiing here with this snow conditions and that’s the reason.”
Jack Crawford of Canada finished third, 0.68 behind Strolz and 0.09 behind Kilde. World champion Marco Schwarz of Austria was fifth, just behind Swiss rival Justin Murisier.
The 29-year-old Kilde won his second medal of the Beijing Games. He also took bronze in the super-G on Tuesday.
“It was quite amazing. I haven’t skied slalom in two years. I just had a good feeling when I was skiing. I went for it, just pointed the skis and tried to stay in balance,” Kilde said. “It’s huge. What an Olympic Games it has been. Of course some emotions on the way, but still quite amazing.”
Kilde had been given tips by girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin, who won gold in the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games. Her 47 career World Cup wins in the slalom are more than anyone else has won in any single event — although the American failed to finish both of her events so far at the Beijing Games.
“She just said to me, ‘Keep up the tempo and keep the skis under you.’ And that’s what I’m going to do,” Kilde said after the downhill run.
One of the favorites for the race, Alexis Pinturault, had a disappointing first run and then fell in the slalom.
The Frenchman won silver in the combined at the 2021 word championships — where he was defending his title — and at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. He had failed to finish four of six slalom races in the World Cup this season.
Another pre-race favorite, Loic Meillard of Switzerland, had an error in the downhill but managed to stay on the course. He failed to finish the second run after straddling a gate.
Thursday’s race had only 27 total entrants, compared to 43 for the downhill and 47 for the super-G earlier in the week. It’s the first time in Olympic history that the event is taking place without at least one American racer.
The downhill run had to be delayed for about 10 minutes when Yannick Chabloz crashed and was taken away in a sled. The Swiss skier tumbled into a barrier and then slid down part of the mountain.