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LA VILLA, Italy (AP) — After nearly 100 races spanning more than a decade, Matts Olsson finally stepped atop the podium of a World Cup event — albeit a non-traditional one.
The Swedish skier, who was a standout junior racer in multiple events a decade ago, had never quite lived up to his promise on the senior circuit.
That's when Olsson upset favorites Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristoffersen in quick succession to win a parallel giant slalom for his first World Cup victory.
Olsson edged Hirscher by 0.05 seconds in the semifinal then beat Kristoffersen by 0.03 in the final of the Alta Badia night race.
"I didn't expect it at all. I was hoping to pass a few runs. But to go all the way? No chance," Olsson said. "But when I beat Marcel in the semifinals then I felt I can do anything, so I was really confident."
Hirscher won the small final for third ahead of Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
In 92 previous World Cup races, Olsson's best results were a second and a third place in giant slaloms last season.
Olsson also helped Sweden to a bronze medal in the team event at the 2011 world championships.
Back in 2007 and 2008, Olsson collected four medals at junior world championships, including a gold in combined and a silver in downhill to go with two bronzes in giant slalom. These days, he races only one event — giant slalom.
"I had to work like 10 years or something," said Olsson, who made his World Cup debut in October, 2007. "It was welcome."
Needing to complete six runs to win in a knockout format, skiers were shuttled back up to the start after each leg on off-road vehicles following brief pit stops with their ski technicians.
"It might be a really cool event for TV and spectators and people might make a lot of money for it but I still like the traditional stuff," Kristoffersen said. "I still like what I grew up watching."
The nations team event, which features the similar discipline of parallel slalom, will make its Olympic debut at the Pyeongchang Games in February.
"If I'm unable to win a medal by myself it will be a good opportunity with my team helping me," said Hirscher, who has won virtually everything in the sport apart from Olympic gold.
Kristoffersen moved nine points ahead of six-time defending champion Hirscher in the overall standings. Hirscher had come into the race sharing the lead with Aksel Lund Svindal, who did not enter.
In a strong showing by Scandinavian skiers, skiers from Sweden and Norway swept five of the top six places. Hirscher, an Austrian, was the only exception.
Kristoffersen, Kilde and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen, who finished fifth, are all Norwegian and Andre Myhrer of Sweden came sixth.
Myhrer eliminated Olympic and three-time world giant slalom champion Ted Ligety in the opening round.
The men's circuit travels to Madonna Di Campiglio for another night event, a traditional slalom, on Friday.
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