Žan Kranjec wins silver in Olympic men’s giant slalom

Beijing – Slovenia’s Žan Kranjec won silver in the Olympic men’s giant slalom on Sunday, in what is his first Olympic medal and the sixth for Slovenia at the Beijing Olympics. Swiss Marco Odermatt won gold 19 hundredths of a second ahead of Kranjec, with France’s Mathieu Faivre finishing third.

After placing 8th in the first run, Kranjec put on a dream-like second run as conditions were tough due to snowing, to improve on his 4th place from the Pyeongchang Olympics four years ago.

Kranjec was somewhat shocked at a 1.41-second lead he secured after the second run, telling public broadcaster TV Slovenija: “As I crossed the finish line, I had to look twice at the screen to see whether I’d seen right how much lead I had.”

“While I knew I did well, I didn’t dare think about a medal yet… I kind of counted on it, but was also afraid it would turn out a bit like in Pyeongchang”, when he placed 4th.

The 29-year-old has won Slovenia the tenth Olympic medal in Alpine skiing, or the eight under Slovenia’s flag.

The first Slovenian to win a medal at winter Olympics was Jure Franko in 1984 when he placed second in giant slalom at the Olympics in Sarajevo, competing for Yugoslavia.

Thirty-eight years after the first men’s Olympic silver medal for Slovenia, its winner Franko rejoiced at Kranjec’s feat, admitting he shed a tear or two while watching the race.

He did not expect Kranjec to win after the first run, but the situation changed a lot during the second run due to snowing, so every skier had to make the best of things on their own. “I think the situation largely surprised them, but the outcome was crazy and historic,” Franko, now 59, told the STA.

Kranjec’s is only the third men’s Olympic medal in Alpine skiing for Slovenia, after Jure Košir secured bronze in slalom 28 years ago in Lillehammer.

At the same time this is the 23rd Winter Olympic medal for Slovenia since the country became independent in 1991, with Tina Maze’s gold from Sochi in 2014 being the country’s best.

Kranjec was the only Slovenian to compete in today’s race, and will also compete in the slalom and parallel mixed team events.

He placed 6th at last year’s World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo while managing to clinch eight World Cup podium results in his career, of which two golds.

Kranjec placed third in this year’s World Cup giant slalom season opener in Austria’s Soelden, his only World Cup podium result this season.

Slovenia’s other competitors did not do as well as Kranjec today. Biathlete Jakov Fak, who won silver in the men’s 20km pursuit event in Pyeongchang, finished 29th in the 12.5km pursuit event, while Lovro Planko was 56th. Polona Klemenčič finished the women’s 10km pursuit race at 51st. In the cross-country relay event, Slovenia’s team finished penultimate, at 14th.