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France arrives on Olympic Alpine scene

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 19, 2014 at 10:37 am •  Published: February 19, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Finally, France is on the Alpine medals table at the Sochi Olympics.

Steve Missillier and Alexis Pinturault both stepped up to the podium Wednesday, finishing second and third in a men's giant slalom won by American favorite Ted Ligety.

If Pinturault's bronze was predicted, Missillier's silver was an unexpected bonus for a guy who has never finished better than fourth in the event on the World Cup circuit.

"I'm very happy to be a surprise," said the 29-year-old Missillier, who earned his first major medal Wednesday. "Second place, it's incredible for me. But Olympic Games is a race of the day and all is possible."

Pinturault, meanwhile, is one of giant slalom's big three, with Ligety and Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

Sixth-fastest in the first run led by Ligety, Pinturault even extended his advantage over Hirscher in the afternoon.

Still, the French star's time fell short of the standard set by Missillier, who soared up the standings from 10th in the morning.

"He can ski really fast sometimes," Pinturault said of his less heralded teammate. "For sure, it is not always easy for him."

It has not been easy for the 22-year-old Pinturault since he arrived in Sochi with Ligety last week on the same flight from Zurich.

Pinturault was expected to open France's medal account in the super-combined last Friday, but he skied out in the slalom portion when lured into a mistake on a tricky course setting.

"Especially in super-combined, everybody was waiting for us and we didn't get any medals," he said Wednesday, acknowledging he had been "a little lost" handling his first Olympics. "I was a lot less stressed today than at the super-combined. It was important for me (to get a medal)."

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