Kriechmayr wins world downhill to emulate Maier-Miller speed double

Luke PHILLIPS
·3-min read

Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr won world downhill gold on Sunday, becoming the first skier in 16 years, and just the third racer, to claim a speed double at the same championships.

Kriechmayr, who won Thursday's super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, kicked off the downhill in bib number one, timing 1min 37.79sec down the testing 2.6km-long Vertigine course.

Andreas Sander claimed a third championship silver for Germany, at just one-hundredth of a second off Kriechmayr. It was a remarkable result for Sander, who has been on the World Cup circuit for 12 seasons but has never broken the top 10 in downhill overall, nor the top 30 overall rankings.

Swiss favourite Beat Feuz, the 2017 world champion in the discipline who went on to claim downhill bronze and super-G silver a year later at the Pyeongchang Olympics, took bronze at +0.18.

The 34-year-old had come into Cortina in top form having won two downhills on Kitzbuehel's dreaded Streif course last month, and also bagged podium finishes in Val Gardena and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

But he had no answer for his 29-year-old Austrian rival who follows in the speed double tracks of American Bode Miller, in 2005, and Austrian legend Hermann Maier, in 1999. Swiss Pirmin Zurbriggen and Canada's Eric Guay have also won both world titles but at separate championships.

"Both of them are legends. To be on the same step is amazing," said Kriechmayr, who downplayed his choice to open up the track.

"It doesn't matter whether you have bib number one or 19, that's it."

- Tricky midsection -

After his super-G success, Kriechmayr once again proved capable of mastering a course which featured a technical midsection involving looping turns into traverses that demanded the maximum of man and ski in a battle against exhausting centrifugal forces.

It proved to be the part of the picturesque piste that sorted the wheat from the chaff, a host of favourites losing valuable tenths of a second negotiating the narrow corridors.

"It was a tricky part. It's so turny," said Italian Dominik Paris, who had topped the two training runs.

Paris, who finished fifth in the super-G a little more than a year after blowing his knee in Kitzbuehel, came in joint fourth along with Switzerland's Marco Odermatt (+0.65).

There was drama as Germany's Austrian-born Romed Baumann, the surprise super-G silver medallist, flew through the finish line and into the safety padding.

Silence fell as officials scrambled to free Baumann, the shaken German eventually helped to his feet and walking off as the announcers chose to blast Steppenwolf's counter-culture classic 'Born to be wild' over the tannoy.

The gladiatorial side of downhill racing, in which skiers top 120km/h (75mph), showed its head as he raised a hand and a crowd reduced by Covid-19 restrictions applauded and cheered in return.

Reigning world downhill champion Kjetil Jansrud of Norway followed up on his 12th in the super-G with eighth place, at 1.02sec.

"There are two sides to the championships, not defending the gold is disappointing," said Jansrud.

Austrian Matthias Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion in Sochi in 2014, skied out after losing control momentarily and going wide on one of those tricky midsection gates.

"I got a bump on my outside ski," Mayer said. "I tried my best to ski very fast and take a medal, but it was not to be.

"It’s a difficult downhill, I struggled and tried to keep the ski going."

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