Razzoli follows Tomba's example

Giuliano Razzoli followed Alberto Tomba's advice to win the men's slalom and hand Italy their first gold medal of the Olympics in the last race of the Alpine ski programme.


The 25-year-old, who had clocked the fastest time in the opening leg through fog and sleet, held his nerve to become the first Italian man to win the title since Tomba 'La Bomba' celebrated 22 years ago to the day in Calgary 1988.

Tomba, joining the ecstatic winner in the finish area after the Italian had won by 0.16 seconds, had texted Razzoli before both legs.

"I told him, have your eyes open and be fast and ferocious. He handled it the way he had to," the excited showman said.

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, whose boisterous fans were silenced by Razzoli's stunning success, collected his second silver of the Games after moving up from fourth place after the first run.

Sweden's Andre Myhrer took the bronze, 0.44 slower than the winner.

Razzoli, who lives around an hour's drive from Tomba's Bologna home, was overjoyed. He lay in the snow with his skis in the air before twirling his poles around and cavorting with the Italian flag on his shoulders.

The winner of a World Cup slalom in Zagreb last month, he said he had always known he could take the gold -- and had even written his name on a piece of paper when asked by a reporter for his prediction before setting off for Canada.

"Its fantastic, unbelievable, it has been my dream for a long time and now it has come true," said Razzoli.

"I was aware that there were big expectations, but I tried not to think about it before the race.

"In the second run, it wasn't easy but I just focused on my own run and trying to do what I know I can do. I've been in the lead before -- I knew I had been fastest and that helps," added Razzoli.

Razzoli, who was just three years old when Tomba triumphed in Calgary, said he was delighted to count the charismatic Italian as his friend.

"I started to ski around the time when he won the Olympic gold medal in Calgary and so he was my idol," he added.

Kostelic, who took a silver in super combined to add to the combined silver he won in Turin four years ago, had no complaints after a career plagued by injury.

"I realistically had two chances of a medal and I took them both," he said.

Defending champion Benjamin Raich slumped from third after the first run to finish fourth for Austria who failed to win a single men's Alpine medal for the first time since 1936.

"That is really close and obviously very disappointing for me and our team but we have to handle that and it is not easy," Raich said.

"It's hard to say (what went wrong), we have trained very well and we were prepared. That wasn't the problem."

As well as Raich's narrow miss for bronze, Mario Scheiber finished fourth in downhill and Marcel Hirscher was fourth in giant slalom with Austrians also fifth and sixth.

"We were always close that is skiing, that is life. Normally the Austrian team gets a medal but this year it didn't happen and its hard but we have to accept it," said Raich.

"We have been successful on the World Cup but not here -- and it is hard to say why. I can't feel a crisis, I know everyone in Austria likes to see us win.

Toni Giger, head coach of the Austrian men's team, admitted his frustration.

"That's the Olympic Games and we have to accept that three guys were faster than we were and they were better today and so we have won no medal," he said.

"It's really frustrating because we had a really strong team and in almost all events we were fourth."

The French men, who had won Alpine gold at the last three Games, also left completely empty-handed for the first time since Lillehammer in 1994.

American Bode Miller failed in his bid for a record fourth medal when he straddled a gate in the first run that saw 43 non-finishers.

At the tail end of the field, Ghana's first Winter Olympian Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong completed both runs to end up 47th of 48 finishers.

"I'm not last on the list so that's fantastic," he said. "That was one of my main aims, not to be totally crap at skiing."

Albanian ski instructor Erjon Tola came last, the 23-year-old Italian resident picked himself up after a big mistake to complete his first run in an epic one minute 33.94 seconds - almost double that of Razzoli.

He was nearly four seconds quicker than Ghana’s debutant ‘Snow Leopard’ in the second run but the damage had been done.

Tola missed a gate so halted his first run, sidestepped back to the gate and then continued to complete his opening descent, punching the air after crossing the line.

"I was watching the course and I said ‘No I want to finish it’. That’s why I came back and finished because this is the Olympics," he said.

"The time doesn’t matter. It is enough that you arrive to represent your country. Of course also the people that don’t finish are in the classification, but this is the Olympic spirit."

Tola, who coaches tourists in the resort of Breuil-Cervinia and is Albania’s sole skier at the Games, competed in giant slalom at the Turin Games four years ago, finishing 35th. In the same discipline in Vancouver, he came 63rd.

"I am the only one (from Albania) and compared to Torino it is much more beautiful and the course easier," he said. "In Torino it was very icy."

Britain's Dave Ryding and Andy Noble finished 27th and 29th respectively.

Factbox on Razzoli:

Age: 25

Place of birth: Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Residence: Villa Minozzo, Italy.

No previous major Olympic results or achievements:

Background: Razzoli started skiing at the age of four with his father who was a ski instructor.

Follow the Winter Olympics 24/7 on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and EurosportHD (Sky 412). British Eurosport channels are streamed online via the Eurosport Player.

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