COURCHEVEL, France (AP) — Canadian skier James Crawford lifted both arms in celebration as soon as he came through the finish at the world championships on Thursday.
Two seconds later, he turned to check the results on the big screen again: Had he really just edged leader Aleksander Aamodt Kilde by one-hundredth of a second in the men’s super-G?
“When I crossed the finish line, I was a little bit surprised,” Crawford said after winning Canada’s 11th medal at a world championships and fourth gold. It’s been six years since the last Canadian winner, Erik Guay in the super-G.
“It feels pretty surreal to be kind of etched into the history books a little bit as another Canadian world champion. I definitely wasn’t expecting anything today.”
Crawford sat in the leader’s chair for an hour, shaking his head in apparent disbelief and biting his fingernails as all later starters failed to beat his time.
“Coming into world champs, it’s really easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself because you have one opportunity,” he said. “With where my skiing was at and how I was feeling, the pressure wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe I could win, but it wasn’t on my mind.”
Alexis Pinturault finished 0.26 seconds behind to take bronze, two days after the Frenchman won the combined race at the worlds in his hometown.
Marco Odermatt, who dominates the World Cup circuit and is the defending overall champion, won four of the six super-Gs this season but finished 0.37 seconds behind in fourth. The Swiss skier is still waiting for his first medal at the worlds, five years after he won five golds at the 2018 junior championships.
Crawford was the next starter after Kilde, one of the pre-race favorites after winning two World Cup super-Gs this season, took the race lead. Crawford trailed the Norwegian halfway through his run but mastered the final section.
“It was consistency from top to bottom. I pushed out of the gate with a very clear mindset on where I wanted to be, what I wanted to ski,” Crawford said.
His second medal from major events followed a bronze in combined at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
He led the combined at the 2021 worlds with the fastest time in the super-G but dropped to fourth after the slalom. He also was fourth in the Olympic downhill a year ago.
“I have been searching for the winner’s race for the last two years. I just haven’t quite been able to do it and today I managed to do it at the world championships, which makes it a little bit sweeter. It’s unbelievable.”
Crawford has yet to win a World Cup race but has three podium results, most recently at a downhill in Italy in December.
The course set was technically demanding with several difficult turns in the steep middle section where racers reached speeds of up to 115 kph (71.5 mph), but also rather short with run times of just over 1 minute, 7 seconds.
The silver was Kilde’s first medal at any worlds. The Norwegian won super-G bronze and combined silver at the Olympics a year ago.
“There was one turn where I could have done better, and that is where Crawford has taken me today,” Kilde said. “He is a guy that can be fast everywhere because he charges and he dares to risk. And the snow here is a bit like that dry North American snow. He’s a good skier and that’s why he’s a capable of winning today.”
Kilde matched the achievement of his girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin, a day after the American standout won silver in Wednesday’s women’s super-G.
“She gives me a lot of inspiration in the way she competes and we give each other support,” Kilde said. “Seeing that we’re both silver medalists, it’s a cool story. Let’s make it a gold at the next opportunity.”
Kilde will compete in the men’s downhill on Sunday, while Shiffrin is expected back at the worlds for the women’s giant slalom next Thursday.
Matthias Mayer won the Olympic title last year but the Austrian retired in December. American racer Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the Olympic silver medalist, finished 1.52 off the lead in 18th.
Italian skier Dominik Paris had a nasty crash after skiing through a gate. He was later limping in the finish area but said he expected to start in Sunday’s downhill.
The Italians wore black armbands after Elena Fanchini, the skier who had her career cut short by a tumor, died on Wednesday at the age of 37.
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