FLACHAU, Austria — Atle Lie McGrath threw one of his poles and both gloves into the snow in a burst of joy after crossing the finish line of a night slalom, then took his helmet off and fired up the spectators with wild arm gestures.
For someone who had never won a World Cup race before, the son of an American father and Norwegian mother knew how to put on a show during his celebrations.
McGrath secured his first career World Cup win Wednesday in a race that produced the eighth different winner in nine slaloms this season.
« This season all races are crazy and cool. It’s absolutely insane. I worked so hard for this moment, » said McGrath, who had to cut short last season with a knee injury and fractured his right thumb two months ago.
It didn’t prevent him from getting strong results. This was his fourth podium result, and second in slalom after finishing runner-up in another night race in Austria, in Schladming, six weeks ago.
« I am not an Austria specialist, but Schladming and Flachau are really cool races. I love those night races, » said McGrath, who was born in Burlington, Vermont, as the son of Felix McGrath, a World Cup skier for the US ski team in the 1980s and 90s.
When Atle was two years old, the family moved to Norway, the home country of his mother, former cross-country skier Selma Lie.
McGrath trailed leader Johannes Strolz by almost a second after the opening run, but the Austrian dropped to fourth following several mistakes in his final run.
Olympic champion Clément Noël of France placed second, 0.29 seconds behind McGrath. The rest of the field, led by Daniel Yule of Switzerland in third, was more than six tenths of a second off the lead.
Britain’s Dave Ryding, who was fifth after the opening run, straddled a gate and did not finish his final run.
The battle for the slalom season title features two Norwegian teammates of McGrath’s: Henrik Kristoffersen, the only racer with multiple slalom wins this season, and Lucas Braathen.
With only the season-ending race at the World Cup Finals on March 10 remaining, Kristoffersen leads Braathen by 48 points. Linus Strasser, Manuel Feller, and Yule are left with slim chances to win the globe.
Both favorites had disappointing showings on Wednesday: Kristoffersen only just qualified for the second run in 28th place, but posted the fastest second-run time to improve to 16th. Braathen failed to reduce the gap to his teammate in the standings when he dropped from seventh to 15th, earning just one point more than Kristoffersen.
Luke Winters was fifth fastest in the final run as the American finished a career-best seventh, two months after earning his first top-10 result at slalom in Adelboden.
The first run marked the 329th and last race in the 19-year-long World Cup career of Manfred Mölgg.
The Italian veteran, who turns 40 in June, clicked out of one ski at the end of his run and slid over the finish on his other ski while waving to the spectators.
Mölgg won three World Cup races, all in slalom, and racked up 20 podium results between 2004 and 2017.
He took the globe for the best slalom skier in the 2007-08 season, and won medals at three different world championships, including silver in slalom in 2007.
Flachau is an annual stop on the women’s circuit but is stepping in to host a men’s event for the second straight season.
The race replaced a slalom from early January that was called off after 19 starters due to bad course conditions in Zagreb.
The men’s World Cup continues with two giant slaloms in Slovenia this weekend before the finals in France next week.