Swiss skier Meillard leads night GS in absence of Odermatt

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SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Swiss skier Loïc Meillard led his teammate Gino Caviezel as they went 1-2 in the opening run of a floodlit World Cup giant slalom Wednesday.

The pair gave the Swiss ski team a strong position to win the event, even with its standout performer, Marco Odermatt, sitting out the race.

Meillard was 0.64 seconds faster than Caviezel. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen was 1.06 back in third and home favorite Manuel Feller in fourth had 1.52 to make up in the second run.

Odermatt has won four of the five giant slaloms so far this season, but has been resting after hurting his left knee last Friday in an acrobatic recovery from a near-crash at a downhill in Kitzbuehel.

The defending overall champion first went back on snow for a training session on Wednesday and he did appear on the official start list released by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, but ultimately decided not to race.

“First day back on snow and I made a huge step ahead! My knee is feeling better and the confidence is coming back. But I won’t race tonight,” Odermatt wrote on Instagram. “It’s a decision made by my head and not by my heart but I would risk too much for the upcoming days and my future.”

Odermatt added he was planning to compete in two super-G races in Italy this weekend, the last men’s World Cup speed events before the Feb. 6-19 world championships in France.

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde could benefit from his rival’s absence Wednesday. The Norwegian skier, who trails leader Odermatt by 225 points in the overall standings, was eighth after the opening run.

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