So in the start of the first run at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Grange shifted immediately into attack gear
and ripped down the Gudiberg race hill, barely beating the only man who had skied before him, Italian
Manfred Moelgg. But of the 58 men who completed the first run, none other would come within a half
second of Grange. Most were well off his pace.
The wait before making his second run, Grange said, felt like “eternity.” Try as he might to dismiss
them, he said ghosts crept into his thinking. Pressure continued to build steam.
His second run would be the last significant start of the Championships. It was a worthy title test made
after all of 29 other leaders had started and the course reduced to ruts.
The Swedes were swarming. With three in the top six (Andre Myhrer third, Mattias Hargin fourth and
Jens Byggmark sixth) after the first run they seemed destined for a medal. Byggmark was the one who
rose to the occasion.
“I actually felt fast,” said Byggmark. “Usually I get nervous when I feel fast, that I’ll be going out, but
today... that was the best feeling I’ve had in three years.” With few expectations and a buzz of excitement fueling him, Byggmark crushed the Gudiberg, cashing in on every risk he took.
There was little chance of Grange putting down a run to match Byggmark, the leader at the time. Byggmark, the 18th starter in the first run, was producing his best skiing since the slalom game was tweaked
by a rule change in 2008.
Moelgg couldn’t catch him; nor could World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic; nor the other two Swedes.
But Grange didn’t need to beat Byggmark’s best of the day. He had a first-run lead of a second on
him. It was a matter of completing his run in a reasonable fashion, but that was no certain feat. Course
workers had the fire hose out and were periodically dumping water on turns of the Gudiberg steep, and
then scraping the slush off to get a hard surface. It kind of worked. “They made a great job on the snow,”
said Grange, “but it was tough to ski, very bumpy. I felt it already in the first gate. I was a bit nervous.”
His nerves hardly showed. Unable to be as aggressive has he had been in the first run, Grange took
chances only when they presented themselves, and skied a relatively conservative run. Moelgg had
already dropped behind Byggmark, and second-run challenges from Mario Matt and Julien Cousineau
had already been uncovered as too little, too late. Grange would win his title with Byggmark for silver
and Moelgg for bronze.
Jean-Baptiste Grange joined a very short list of Frenchmen to win the world slalom title: Emile Allias
(‘ 37) Charles Bozon (‘62) and Jean-Noel Augert (‘70). It was the first gold medal (outside of the team
event) for France since 2001, the first for a French male since 1982 and the first for a male in slalom
since Augert in ‘70. In Portillo (‘66) the French won 16 medals, six of them gold.
The fifth-place finish for Canada’s Cousineau was a personal best at any elite level and was among
the best of the success stories beyond the medal performances. He matched the second-best slalom
performance of any Canadian ever, that of Ernie McCullough in 1950 at Aspen when the term “soft
snow” had a wholly different meaning. “I’m starting to get tired of fifth, “said Cousineau. “I want to get
on the podium. I can’t wait. I know it’s coming. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.” Cousineau