Switzerland's Marc Gini has pulled off an upset in the opening slalom of the World Cup season, beating more fancied rivals to win in the Austrian resort of Reiteralm.
Gini surprisingly led the race already after the first leg, and was able to hold on to first place despite the difficult conditions, with snow falling and fog on the course.
Despite being Swiss slalom champion three times, he had never managed to make an impact on the world cup circuit. The Swiss skier's best results so far had been a ninth and two tenth places.
"This is fantastic, an unbelievable result," Gini said. "I made some bets with my teammates, but that was just for fun. I never thought I could really win here."
On the verge of a breakthrough win, Gini did not surrender his lead in the second run, leaving Finland's Kalle Palander – one of the best slalom specialists around – and Italy's Manfred Mölgg behind him.
"I wasn't nervous at all after finishing in front in the first leg," said Gini. "I went as fast as I could [in the second] and it was only halfway down that I told myself not to try too hard or brake."
The 23-year-old admitted he had an advantage over his rivals. "I like to ski when it's snowing, unlike most of the other competitors," he added.
The Austrians, hot favourites to win a race being run in their backyard, failed to live up to expectations. Mario Matt was their best representative, finishing only fifth despite the crowd's support.
Gini's win is only the second one for the Switzerland in slalom this century. Last season, Marc Berthod also recorded a surprise victory in the Swiss resort of Adelboden.
Slalom has always been one of the weaknesses of the Swiss men's team. Reiteralm is just the ninth win for Switzerland in the 42-year history of the world cup.
Sunday's winner has not been one of the faces of the Swiss men's team.
Although a recognised talent, he has been less visible than Berthod and Daniel Albrecht, two former junior world champions who both enjoyed impressive results last season. Knee injuries also forced Gini to sit out a whole winter three years ago.
"My target this season was a podium place, so I have to set some new goals now," he said. "I am 23 and my career is advancing step by step.
"I don't know yet how far I can go. I will start thinking about that tomorrow after having a party tonight back in Switzerland."
Saturday's women's slalom was nowhere near as successful for the Swiss. Only one skier ended up in the points: Aita Camastral, who finished 19th.
The world cup will now take a two-week break and head to North America for the next races.
swissinfo with agencies
1. Marc Gini, Switzerland, 1:53.49
2. Kalle Palander, Finland, 1:53.77
3. Manfred Mölgg, Italy, 1:53.99
4. Jean-Baptiste Grange, France, 1:54.12
5. Mario Matt, Austria, 1:54:14
6. Markus Larsson, Sweden, 1:54.33
7. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1:54.35
8. Julien Lizeroux, France, 1:54.53
9. Rainer Schoenfelder, Austria, 1:54.64
10. Manfred Pranger, Austria, 1:54.91
16. Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland, 1:55.50
19. Sandro Viletta, Switzerland, 1:55.
27. Daniel Albrecht, Switzerland, 1:56.58
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