Carlo Janka has added the overall World Cup title to his list of ski trophies after finishing first in the giant slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Friday.
He is the first Swiss since Paul Accola in 1992 to win the prestigious Grand Crystal Globe, which is awarded at the end of the season to the best skier in all five of the alpine disciplines taken together.
The 23-year-old had already won Olympic gold in the event in Vancouver last month. Last year he won the overall World Cup title in the combined. He becomes one of the youngest skiers ever to win the Globe.
"I am really proud to have won it at age 23," Janka said. "To be world champion, Olympic champion and overall champion at that age is incredible.”
"It was totally unexpected for me," he added. "Benni [Raich] is one of the fairest athletes and he would have deserved the title as well, he led the standings for a long time."
The skier from canton Graubünden cut his achievement fine: the race in the German resort was the last giant slalom contest of the season that counts towards the overall World Cup title. The only remaining World Cup race is the slalom on Saturday.
Janka was the last to leave the starting gate on the second run, and with his nearest rival, Austria’s Raich, then in the seventh spot, Janka had to come first in order to clinch the title.
“Everything was perfect”
He lost time early on in the course but was able to close the difference with the then leader, Davide Simoncelli of Italy, in the final curves.
"Everything came together this season and today everything was perfect. I had a good feeling after the first run and I was confident before the second," said Janka.
"I heard the announcer before the start and I knew I had to win the race to secure the title but that didn't bother me. I was focused."
Janka, who is normally undemonstrative, and is even nicknamed “ice man” for his ability to keep his cool under pressure, raised his arms in victory before lying down in the snow to celebrate his triumph.
Whatever happens in Saturday’s slalom, Janka’s victory has put him an unbeatable 106 points ahead of Raich, who ended up 8th. Raich, who won the grand crystal globe in 2006, is once again second this year for the fourth consecutive year.
Janka had led after the first run and was able to produce a clean second run under pressure to win in a combined time of 2 minutes, 20.87 seconds for his sixth victory of the season.
He finished 0.31 seconds ahead of Davide Simoncelli of Italy and 0.57 seconds ahead of Austria’s Philipp Schoeghofer and Ted Ligety of the United States, who tied for third.
Ligety walked away with the overall World Cup title in the giant slalom. Didier Cuche of Switzerland, who won the overall downhill title, was fifth.
One of the trainers of the Swiss team, Mauro Pini, described Janka as something of an “extraterrestrial” for his ability to stay calm – an ability which the champion attributed after the race to his “good genes”.
Martin Rufener, the chief trainer of the Swiss men said he had never seen anyone like Janka in his six years in the job.
“He’s incredible. Practically the talent of the century,” he said.
Cuche, 12 years Janka’s senior, but who is still hoping to add the Grand Globe to his four World Cup trophies, praised Janka as a “great champion” .
“Could someone ask him when he plans to retire?” he joked.
Albrecht still out
The race saw the appearance of another Swiss star, Daniel Albrecht, who acted as a forerunner - one of those who skis the course before the race to ensure that it will be fair for all competitors.
The 26-year-old sustained brain and lung injuries 14 months ago after crashing on the final jump in downhill training in Kitzbühel, Austria. Doctors kept him in an induced coma for three weeks to allow brain swelling to ease.
Albrecht, who was 2007 world champion in super-combined, postponed earlier comebacks because Swiss coaches said he was not ready to return.
After Friday's test run, Albrecht said he was looking forward to taking part in the World Cup again next season.
swissinfo.ch and agencies
Overall World Cup standings
As of March 12, 2010, with one race to go,:
1. Carlo Janka (Switzerland) 1197 points
2. Benjamin Raich (Austria) 1091
3. Didier Cuche (Switzerland) 952 points
4. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway) 883 points
5. Ivica Kostelic (Croatia) 779 points
6. Marcel Hisrcher (Austria) 675 points
7. Ted Ligety (USA) 667 points
8. Michael Walchhofer (Austria) 594 points
9. Silvan Zurbriggen (Switzerland) 583 points
10. Julien Lizeroux (France) 564 points