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Meillard takes big lead in opening run of World Cup slalom

Swiss skier Loïc Meillard took a big lead of more than half a second in the opening run of a men’s Word Cup slalom on Sunday.

Meillard mastered the icy Gudiberg course and finished 0.51 seconds ahead of Swiss teammate Ramon Zenhäusern and Johannes of Strolz of Austria, who clocked the same time.

Joaquim Salarich, a late starter in 49th, posted the fourth-fastest time, 0.55 behind Meillard. The Spanish racer scored a personal best eighth in Saturday's slalom on the same hill.

Switzerland's Ramon Zenhaeusern speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom race, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP PhotoGabriele Facciotti)

Defending overall World Cup champion Alexis Pinturault of France was 0.69 behind in fifth.

Conditions had changed from Saturday’s race, which was won by two-time World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen.

Freezing temperatures overnight made the top layer harder and more slippery, causing several racers problems with the tuning setup of their skis.

Austria's Johannes Strolz speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom race, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP PhotoGabriele Facciotti)

“It was not easy to get the right feeling under your feet: it was partly aggressive, partly icy. I just tried to stay calm,” Meillard said.

Saturday’s winner Kristoffersen had 0.88 to make up in the second run, while his Norwegian teammate Lucas Braathen, who leads the slalom standings, was 1.24 behind and outside the top 20.

Meillard is a two-time bronze medalist from the 2021 world championships - in the parallel and combined events - and has one World Cup win, also in a parallel race.

France's Alexis Pinturault speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom race, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP PhotoGabriele Facciotti)

Leading a slalom after the first run, however, is no guarantee for a good final result, judged by the previous seven races this season.

From the eight first-run leaders, including one with two joint leaders, only three finished their second run, and just one managed to hold on to his lead and win the race — Olympic champion Clément Noël in the season opener in Val d’Isère in December.

Noël was among the racers who struggled to keep their balance in Sunday’s race. The Frenchman leaned backwards and skied out before the first split.

Swedish skier Kristoffer Jakobsen, who had podium results in the first two slaloms this season, failed to finish a slalom for the eighth straight time after he straddled a gate.

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