Pinturault swallows bitter pill in gilded prison

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Alexis Pinturault of France celebrates after winning the men's giant slalom of the FIS Ski World Cup in Hinterstoder, Austria, on March 2 (AFP Photo/GEORG HOCHMUTH)
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Paris (AFP) - Alexis Pinturault said Thursday he had swallowed the bitter pill that came from finishing runner-up in the coronavirus-shortened World Cup alpine ski season.

While the French racer acknowledged the end to the season, which saw him finish second by just 54 points behind Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, had left him disappointed, he insisted in an interview with AFP that he was over it.

"At the time, I was obviously upset, it was something peculiar, lots of races were cancelled, especially technical races," he said in reference to the cancellation of five technical (slalom, giant slalom) and three speed (super-G, downhill) events.

"I had the sense of unfinished business.

"But that has been rather easy to digest and accept given the circumstances and what's going on," he added in a nod to the COVID-19 outbreak that has swept the globe and wreaked havoc with many other sporting events and competitions.

Pinturault maintained that the international ski federation (FIS) should have taken the decision to halt the season at Hinterstoder, Austria, where there were races scheduled between February 29-March 2.

He was then atop the World Cup overall standings and would have walked away with the big globe as winner.

As it was, the circuit rolled on to Kvitfjell, Norway, for a downhill on March 7 in which Kilde finished second to regain the overall standings lead from 'Pintu'.

The Frenchman said his focus had not yet turned to next season. All ski stations in France are shut, meaning access to slopes for equipment testing and glacier racing are off limits.

- A 'real blow' -

"It's a bit early, this end to the season was a real blow," he said.

"On top of that, we're all a bit lifeless, at home, we don't do much, we try to keep busy, but at the end of the day you spend a lot of hours locked up inside your own four walls, so it's not easy to find motivation."

But he acknowledged that some good has come out of the virus-enforced lockdown.

"It's been ages since I've spent so much time with my relatives," he said from the five-star Annapurna hotel owned by his father in the swish French alpine resort of Courchevel.

"Although the hotel is closed, you could say it's a 'gilded prison'."

As for skiing, it is a sport like riding a bike, Pinturault said.

"You don't forget it, but you always need to put in ski days. The minimum is four or five days in each discipline to regain a decent level, then two or three more to fully take on board stuff and find your best level."