France’s Clement Noel took the gold Wednesday in the Alpine men’s skiing slalom at the Beijing Olympics.
Noel jumped over the top five skiers to take the gold after missing by just four one hundredths of a second during the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea.
This year Noel set a combined time of 1.44.09, beating Austria’s Johannes Strolz, who took the silver, and Norway’s Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, who took the bronze. Noel described the unpredictability of the slalom competition, which has had a different winner during each of the 19 times the event has been featured at the Olympics.
“There will be many contenders and surprises as always at the games. The fastest one will take it all,” Noel told Olympics.com.
Indeed he was the fastest one as he navigated the course with speed and skill and won the gold by a full 0.61 of a second. Before the final run, Noel was in sixth position and not in the immediate running for an Olympic medal. But on the final run, Noel found a burst of speed, bringing him into contention for an Olympic medal.
Noel won France’s first Alpine skiing gold since 2006, when Antoine Dénériaz’s took the gold, and France’s first slalom event since Salt Lake City 2002, when Jean-Pierre Vidal brought home the gold medal.
With France’s win, the nation was tied with the Russian Olympics Committee for 10th place. As of Wednesday evening Pacific time, each nation had four gold medals.
Norway continued to lead the gold medal count with 13, followed by Germany with 10 golds and the U.S. with eight. China was in fourth place with seven golds.
Austria, The Netherlands and Sweden had six gold medals each. Switzerland had five golds.
In other Olympics action Wednesday, the Slovakia men’s hockey team proceeded to the semi-finals after eliminating Team USA from the quarter final. Slovakia won the penalty shootout in a tight and tense 2-2 match in regular time and a deadlock in overtime.
“Words just can’t describe how I feel right now. It’s a real tough pill to swallow,” USA Coach David Quinn told Olympics.com. “I thought as the game went on we got away from doing the things we needed to do to have success. I thought we tried to force plays offensively, really fueled their offense, and you could really feel the momentum change.
“To me the five-on-three was the turning point of the whole game,” Quinn said. “We had the chance to go up five-to-three, and we just couldn’t do it. It was such an incredible group of players to coach, and it just really stings that it’s over..”
Patrik Rybar stopped four of Team USA’s penalty shots and Peter Cehlarik scored the Slovak’s historic victory.
Slovakia will play the winner of ROC-Denmark in the semi-final.
Slovakia started the tournament poorly, losing 6-2 Finland and 4-1 to Sweden. The nation’s 17-year-old athlete Juraj Slafkovsky is one of the breakout stars of the Games. His goal inspired his team to find the confidence to start beating Team USA.