Thunderclap in Saalbach: Swiss ski genius Marco Odermatt was forced to retire after a big mistake in the last winter giant and saw his Grand Slam dreams disappear in his favorite discipline. For more than a year, the story has been the same: there were 30 athletes in the second round of a giant World Cup (22 on Saturday for the final) and in the end it was Marco Odermatt who won. The scenario was well on its way to repeating itself on Saturday in the small Austrian resort which hosts the finals of the Alpine Ski World Cup.

Already assured of winning his third big crystal globe and winner of the first nine winter giants, the 26-year-old Swiss finished well ahead of the first round with a four-tenths lead and was heading straight for a 10/10 , a Grand Slam not seen since the Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark in 1979. But “Odi” finally made a mistake at the top of the course of the second round, not helped by the soft snow and poor visibility, and had to let slip victory after a series of 12 giant successes.

This is the first time since the end of 2019 that Odermatt, undefeated in his favorite discipline since February 2023, has not finished a World Cup giant and the first time since March 2021 that he is not on the podium.

“I wasn’t nervous at all but I just didn’t have the legs today to get this victory with these spring conditions. That’s how it is,” reacted, frustrated, Odermatt at the microphone of the International Ski Federation.

Small consolation for the Swiss who displayed a disappointed smile after his abandonment, it was his compatriot and friend Loïc Meillard who won the race, ahead of the Andorran Joan Verdu (71 hundredths) and another Swiss, Thomas Tumler (79 hundredths) . “I knew I had to push because Loïc (Meillard) was not far away. I’m happy to see him win and to see Thomas (Tumler) on the podium. I am proud of them,” insisted Odermatt.

If he will not join Stenmark and his unprecedented Grand Slam on Saturday, the Swiss will put his skis back on next week for the downhill and the super-G, two disciplines where he is also provisionally at the top of the specialty rankings. He can therefore finish the season with four globes (giant, super-G, downhill, general), unheard of in 23 years, and beat his own record for points scored in a winter (2042 points last year).

The men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup continues on Sunday with the slalom.