Grange caps comeback with world title
BEAVER CREEK, United States - Agence France-Presse
Gold medailist France's Jean-Baptiste Grange reacts during the medal ceremony after winning the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships men's slalom February 15, 2015 in Beaver Creek, Colorado. AFP PhotoThe life-long back problems that have plagued Jean-Baptiste Grange almost forced him to retire from ski racing three years ago.
Good thing the 30-year-old from Valloire toughed it out long enough to be crowned world champion again Feb. 15 after his shocking surprise victory in the men's slalom -- the final race of the 2015 alpine World Championships.
"There is pure emotion coming through me," Grange said. "With all my bad injuries, I feel overwhelmed right now."
It has been four years between titles for Grange, who also won at the 2011 Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
A year after that victory, he was ready to throw in the towel. But for the son of two former French national ski team racers, the sport was in his blood.
The almost final straw was a terrible back pain that nobody could seem to figure out, even the doctors who treated him.
"I had bad pain in my back," he said. "I didn't get too much help from the doctors.
"I was thinking it wasn't going to get better so I was thinking to retire.
"It was the second time I had this pain. When I was young, 11 years old, I had the same pain because I had a hernia."
Doctors at the time told Grange he should give up skiing. He didn't take the easy way out then and he is certainly not doing it now.
"The last four years have been difficult for me. It was very tough and I struggled," said Grange, who has also had two operations on his right knee.
Grange charged down the slope in blizzard-like conditions Sunday for his third career world championship medal.
He got a bit of luck from a favourable course set-up that tripped up Austria's Hirscher. The twisting, icy piste of the morning run, that favoured the hard-charging Hirscher, turned into a straight run down the mountain for the second that was much more to Grange's liking.
"I didn't like the first course. It was very turny. I prefer it when it is more straight and with rhythm just like the second run," said Grange.
He couldn't believe his good fortune when Hirscher, who was the final racer of the day, lost his footing and missed a gate. First-run leader Hirscher had the fastest split time and appeared to be heading to his fourth medal of the games when the disaster struck.
"I saw Marcel go really fast. He was fighting and then he skied out.
"At an event like the Worlds and the Olympics there is a lot of stress and you are not always feeling good.
"But you have to believe in yourself. Today was my day."