YANQING, China (Reuters) – Many athletes say that finishing fourth is the most painful result in the Olympics, but for France’s Clement Noel just missing the podium in 2018 paved the way to claiming gold in the slalom on Wednesday.
Noel was edged out of a slalom medal by 0.16 seconds at the last Olympics, but at the Beijing Games he beat Austria’s Johannes Strolz by 0.61 seconds and world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag of Norway by 0.70 seconds.
“It’s my best moment of my career,” Noel said after Wednesday’s race. When asked whether his experience in Pyeongchang had weighed on him over the past four years, the 24-year-old said in fact it had helped him in Beijing.
“I had nothing to regret. I had done my best skiing. I was young and I was able to discover things. It went well, it was a very good race. For me it’s a good memory and it will always be a good memory. So it was not like I had to make up for it,” he said.
“If this had been my first Games, I would have been more impressed by everything, a bit more intimidated. Now I knew how it all works and that helped me.”
“(Pyeongchang was) a little bit frustrating at the beginning but then I was quite proud to be fourth at the Olympics.”
Noel left his family in the Vosges region at the age of 15 to live with a host family in France’s ski hub at Val d’Isere in the Alps.
“My parents liked ski so that’s why they wanted me to do ski but they never pushed me too much. It was my choice,” he said.
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Alison Williams)