Chamonix Report: Johann Grugger, Canada and more big crashes


Chamonix Report: Johann Grugger, Canada and more big crashesJohann Grugger, a quiet youngster on the powerful Austrian team, won the downhill at Chamonix today, riding a smooth line in a race that was characterized by brutal crashes. Grugger, who also won the last World Cup — a downhill last week at Bormio — has guaranteed himself a spot at the world championship downhill just over three weeks from now.

“With two victories, it looks true,” said Toni Giger, the head coach of the Austrian men’s team, who will make the selection that will certainly leave some top skiers sitting on the sidelines. “There are ten more races to run before the world championships, and then we will decide the rest.”

The downhill track was soft at the first turn, grippy throughout the shady middle section, and slick ice towards the finish, where the track runs over what will be Sunday’s slalom hill (it was injected with water last week). Dicing through that section, Grugger served notice that his win last week at Bormio wasn’t a product of fluke winds on a gusty day.

“This was an important victory for me,” Grugger said in the post-race press conference. “There can be no more discussion. I deserved this victory. I hope this silences all my critics and all those who doubted that I deserved that win in Bormio.”

Grugger (skiing on Heads) beat out Kristian Ghedina of Italy, who at 35 years of age has skied on Fischer skis for 20 years. According to the Italian winter sports federation, Ghedina is the oldest person to ever finish on a World Cup podium.

Canadian breakthroughs
It was a banner day for the Canadians. Jeff Hume, who had lingered in the back of the pack in the season’s earlier downhills, finished tied for sixth — by far a career-best. And Manny Osbourne, skiing in his first-ever World Cup, finished 14th, and even won one of the middle split times. For more on their excellent day, visit their team’s excellent website.

Trend of big crashes continues
Twice the race was stopped for extended periods as racers recovered from nasty wrecks. The worst was probably that of Sebastian Fournier of France, who tilted in the air off a jump called “La Bosse a Perrot,” let his landing gear down early and flopped onto the icy track at high speed. Limp and unconscious, he slid into the net, and had to be helicoptered off the hill.

Another crash came when Fritz Strobl of Austria, the reigning Olympic downhill champion, lost his balance midway down the course and hit the nets. He walked away fine.

A much uglier fall came from Norbert Holznecht, an Austrian with some heavy Europa Cup experience. Holznecht flew off the huge Goulet jump, where Antoine Deneriaz ended his season the day before, and lost his balance upon landing, sliding face first into a burm. He clutched his face in pain, but walked away with minimal injuries. “He is okay, but he has a headache,” reported his coach, Toni Giger.

(In other crash-related news, Bryon Friedman was released from the intensive care unit of the hospital in Sallanches, France, where he is recovering from a bad fall in Thursday’s training run.)

World Cup

Men’s Downhill
Chamonix, France
Jan. 8, 2005

1. Johann Grugger, AUT 1:56.93
2. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:57.04
3. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:57.07
4. Mario Scheiber, AUT 1:57.24
5. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:57.35
6. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:57.42
6. Jeff Hume, CAN 1:57.42
8. Bode Miller, USA 1:57.44
8. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:57.44
10. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 1:57.64
11. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 1:57.72
12. Juerg Gruenenfelder, SUI 1:57.73
12. Yannick Bertrand, FRA 1:57.73
14. Manuel Osborne, CAN 1:57.84
15. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:57.89
16. Alessandro Fattori, ITA 1:58.04
17. Finlay Mickel, GBR 1:58.05
18. Erik Guay, CAN 1:58.15
19. Werner Franz, AUT 1:58.19
20. Peter Fill, ITA 1:58.31
21. Klaus Kroell, AUT 1:58.44
22. Pierre Dalcin, FRA 1:58.45
23. Patrik Jaerbyn, SWE 1:58.67
24. Patrick Staudacher, ITA 1:57.74
25. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:58.96
26. Didier Defago, SUI 1:58.99
27. Daniel Zueger, SUI 1:59.02
28. Nicolas Burtin, FRA 1:59.08
29. Max Rauffer, GER 1:59.15
30. Claude Cretier, FRA 1:59.29
other North Americans:
37. Jakub Fiala, USA 2:00.05
39. Justin Johnson, USA 2:00.28
42. David Anderson, CAN 2:00.50

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s Downhill, Chamonix, Jan. 8, 2005
Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Grugger, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
2 Ghedina, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia
3 Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4 Scheiber, Atomic/Lange/Atomic
5 Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6 Gruber, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6 Hume, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8 Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10 Sulzenbacher, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol

Men’s Downhill, Chamonix, France, Jan. 8, 2005. … It is the 17th race in a 35 race (plus 2 combined) men’s World Cup season. … It is the sixth of 11 scheduled downhills. … Winning margin is less than a tenth. … The first 15 skiers are within a second.

It is the second career win for Johan Grugger and second in 11 days. … He was seventh at Chamonix a season ago (1/10/2004). … He now has 21 scoring finishes all in this season or last. … He is the 11th Austrian to win this season. … Grugger is the first Austrian male to win two this season.

It is the 33rd career podium for Kristian Ghedina. … His first since 3/2/2002 at Kvifjell. … His second since 12/14/01 at Val Gardena. … His best prior result this season had been 12th at ValGardena 12/18. … He had not been in the top 10 since Kitzbuehel 1/24/04. … It is the sixth Italian podium of the season. … this first in DH. … He won at Chamonix 1/11/97. … Austrians have won in all three DH’s held here since.

It is the 22nd career podium for Michael Walchhofer. … His seventh of the season. … He has been on the podium in five of the six DH’s held this season. …

It is the 29th career top five for Daron Rahlves. … His fifth of the season. … He has finished in the top 10 in five of the six downhills this season. … He had not been better than 15th at Chamonix prior. …

It is the first career scoring finish, let alone top 10 for Jeff Hume. … He is 26 from Garibaldi Highlands, BC. … He has been third in the Canadian Nat’l DH in each of the last three seasons. … It is the 65th top 10 for Bode Miller. … He has Dh finishes this season of 1-1-4-8-14-14. … It is the first career scoring finish for Manual Osborne-Paradis. … He is 21 from Vancouver. … He was a silver medalist in SG at the World Junior Championships last season. … It is the 17th career scoring finish for Erik Guay. … The seventh of the season. … The Canadians have had 18 different racers score this season.

Bode Miller maintains the lead in the World Cup overall standings 908-560 over Benjamin Raich (did not race). … Daron Rahlves is fifth at 436. … Michael Walchhofer takes over the Downhill standings lead 331-318 over Miller. … Rahlves is fourth at 264. … The Austrian men lead the Nations Cup 3925-1661 over the U.S.

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