PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Ramon Zenhaeusern has endured years of people telling him he was too tall to compete in the slalom and on Thursday at the Pyeongchang Games he finally had the perfect riposte - an Olympic silver medal.
The 6ft 7in (2.00m)-tall Swiss undoubtedly benefited from Austrian great Marcel Hirscher crashing out in the opening run and Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen doing the same on the second run, but nothing was going to spoil his Olympic moment.
“Most people didn’t think that a two meter man could go fast in slalom, I was always told ‘do more speed or other sports’,” the 25-year-old told reporters with a huge grin on his face.
“But two people in my life always thought I could, my father and Didier Plaschy, also a World Cup winner.
“Everyone else when I was young didn’t think it was possible to ski fast at two meters.”
Zenhaeusern arrived in South Korea in peak form on the back of his maiden win on the World Cup circuit in the parallel slalom in Stockholm at the end of January.
He had been to Pyeongchang last year and arrived a week before the Games to get used to the snow that Hirscher on Thursday blamed for his early exit.
“We did everything right and then it’s a silver medal,” he beamed.
Even when Hirscher went out, though, Zenhaeusern was not certain that he would be fast enough to win Switzerland a first Olympic medal in men’s slalom since Jacques Luethy’s bronze in 1980.
“I was in a good position, but many were in this position, seven, eight athletes who had the possibility to reach the podium,” he said.
“I knew it was possible, but that also I had to go full-on attack, 100 percent.”
He did a good job in his second run but then had a long wait as eight other top skiers went after him trying to knock him off the podium.
He was assured of a medal when Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet failed to overhaul him, claiming the silver behind Andre Myhrer when Kristoffersen crashed out on his second run.
“I had skied fast already in training and some races,” Zenhaeusern added.
“I knew it was possible, but I am surprised I have done it.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty