Alpine skiing-Kranjec gets silver reward after near misses

2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Alpine Skiing - Men's Giant Slalom - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China - February 13, 2022. Silver medallist Zan Kranjec of Slovenia poses with his medal during victory ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

YANQING, China, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Olympics reward the performers who deliver on a given day once every four years but Slovenian Zan Kranjec's silver medal in the men's giant slalom on Sunday felt like compensation for years of consistency and near misses.

The 29-year-old had never reached the podium in an Olympic or World Championships before but finished fourth in the Pyeongchang Games four years ago and was sixth and fifth in the last two Worlds.

An outstanding second run put him on top of the podium and he waited and watched as a series of skiers above him in the World Cup rankings fell by the wayside coming down the tricky Ice River course after him.

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In the end, Swiss favourite Marco Odermatt pipped the Slovenian to the gold by just 19 hundredths of a second and despite that disappointment there was clear pride in Kranjec's words.

"I didn't think about the medal after the second run but I knew the ride was very good. Everyone around me said it would probably be enough (for a medal) and I was counting on it a bit, but I was also afraid that it might be the same as four years ago," he said.

His time of 1:05.83 in the second run was 0.59 seconds faster than Odermatt's effort and only one other skier got within a second of his time.

Given he had finished eighth in the first run, 0.78 behind the Swiss, he had plenty of time to make up.

"At the start I had a lot of doubts. I knew it would be very difficult for the medal, as the gap was quite large. On the other hand, I said to myself that I have nothing to lose," he said.

"I changed my skis and in the second run I felt really great. I improved from start to finish. It was hard. The track was winding and visibility was poor.

"I'm really very happy. The Olympic medal is something amazing. I dreamed about it. I didn't know if there would be any chance of that. Crazy," he said.

Kranjec's coach Klemen Bergant told Slovenian television station RTV that the silver was fully merited.

"It's hard to say in words. Zan deserved it. He was usually always on the other side of luck. He has a whole bunch of fourth, fifth and sixth places with a small gap behind the medal.

"With the second run he showed himself and everyone else," he said.

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Reporting by Simon Evans,

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