Sara Hector smiled as she crossed the finish line on Monday and lifted her ski poles to put them on her helmet. She seemed to laugh later, as if to say, “Did I really just do that?” while clutching his gold medal during the giant slalom medal ceremony.
And, yes, of course, the Swedish rider was smiling broadly as her coach and others hoisted her out of the snow to celebrate a career-defining win that seemed so unlikely for so long, but seemed inevitable lately. .
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Hector capped a recent career resurgence in the best way possible at the Beijing Olympics, earning his first individual victory in a major championship by completing two runs on a course known as The Ice River at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center in a total time of 1 minute. , 55.69 seconds.
She credited working with a mental coach, better equipment, improved technique and “working really, really hard” for reversing her results.
Hector claimed his first World Cup victory in December 2014, then waited seven years to secure second place last December. And then all of a sudden, as if she had discovered the secret of success, she tacked on No. 3 and 4 in January. Everyone was in a giant slalom.
This meant, according to Per Jonsson, Sweden’s coach for the technical events, that Hector went to the 2022 Games “coming in as a favourite, a bit”.
Italian Federica Brignone was 0.28 seconds slower over both runs to add a silver to the bronze medal she won in the GS at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games behind champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who is fell in Monday’s opening race a few hours earlier and was eliminated.
“She’s a super, super nice person, so I just got sad for her,” Hector said.
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Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland finished third, 0.72 behind Hector, and now has another bronze medal alongside the one she earned in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Hector’s track record in the biggest alpine skiing events? In four races on two previous trips to the Olympics, Hector has never done better than 10th place. And in 10 individual races in six world championship appearances, the best she did was finish seventh (although she shared three world championship team medals).
“Sara Hector has been climbing all season and it’s so amazing to watch her,” said Paula Moltzan, the top American in 12th place.
After winning two weeks ago in San Vigilio di Marebbe, Italy, she tried to explain that recent run that put her atop the World Cup giant slalom standings heading to Beijing.
She said she was “easily rolled up” and it got her into trouble. But lately, Hector said, she’s been able to “feel really calm” and it helps her concentrate better.
“It took me a while to figure out what I needed,” she said at the time. “Now I know a lot more about what I need and it’s cool to find out.”
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Monday’s race was delayed by around 15 minutes when American Nina O’Brien, who was sixth in the first run, crossed the finish line, screaming in pain, after tripping through the final gate as her skis crossed in front of her. She was examined by medical staff and US team personnel before being taken away on a sled.
U.S. Ski Team spokeswoman Megan Harrod said O’Brien was “alert and responsive.”
The skier just ahead, Tessa Worley of France, owner of four world titles and currently second in the GS World Cup standings, crashed on the lower part of the course, hitting a gate as she tried to turn left . She turned around, lost a ski, and slid down the hill before climbing back up and the rest of the way down.