KITZBÜHEL, Austria – After four second-place finishes, Swiss skier Beat Feuz finally got his first win in the classic men’s World Cup downhill on the Streif course Friday.
His victory, however, was bittersweet because teammate Urs Kryenbühl crashed badly on the final jump and was taken to the hospital by helicopter.
Approaching the finish at nearly 150 kph (93 mph), Kryenbühl lost his balance in the air and smashed sideways into the icy slope. He looked up and leaned on his elbow while being attended by medics before being flown to the hospital 20 minutes later.
The Swiss ski team said Kryenbühl sustained a concussion, a broken right collar bone and torn ligaments in his right knee.
“This is an emotional rollercoaster,” Feuz said. “A big moment, winning in Kitzbühel. It was a tough race, a long race, but I am happy. Finally nobody will ask me anymore: ‘When will you win Kitzbühel?'”
The accident involving Kryenbühl resembled crashes by American downhiller Scott Macartney in 2008 and Swiss racer Daniel Albrecht the following year. Both suffered life-threatening brain injuries but later returned to the circuit.
Several racers, including Feuz, called on governing body FIS to change the finish jump for upcoming races. Another downhill is scheduled for Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday.
“The jump is going too far,” Feuz said. “I went 60, 70 meters. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Earlier in the race, American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle escaped serious injury in another frightening crash a bit higher up the course.
The race was interrupted several more times because of strong winds and finally stopped after 30 starters, also because flat light caused dangerous conditions.
Results of a downhill stand when at least the top 30 racers have started their run.
Feuz, the runner-up in Kitzbühel in each of the past three seasons, had a gutsy run to earn his maiden victory.
The downhill world champion from 2017 mastered the challenging hill and remained in his tuck during the jumps to finish 0.16 seconds ahead of last year’s winner, Matthias Mayer of Austria.
Dominik Paris, a three-time winner on the Streif, was 0.56 behind in third for the Italian’s first podium since damaging his knee in a downhill training crash on this course a year ago.
“When you leave Matthias Mayer behind you, you know it was a good run,” Feuz said. “I risked everything. I’m proud of how I raced.”
Mayer moved to the top of the downhill standings, overtaking overall champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The Norwegian is out for the season with a knee injury.
Cochran-Siegle lost balance when he leaned back while landing a jump near the end of his run, slid off course and cut his way through the first row of safety nets.
The American sat up right away, took his helmet off and touched his shoulder, but seemed unhurt otherwise. He was also transported off the hill by helicopter.
The U.S. ski team said the use of the helicopter was “standard protocol” and that Cochran-Siegle was “up and walking around and he is OK.”
The ski team later updated its statement, saying, “Ryan Cochran-Siegle crashed in Friday’s downhill, sustaining a minor cervical spine (neck) fracture. He is otherwise OK, thankfully. He is in good spirits, and is at the team hotel, but will sit the remainder of the weekend out. His return to competition is TBD.”
Cochran-Siegle, who won his first World Cup race in Italy in December and posted the fastest time in training on the Streif on Wednesday, led Feuz by up to 0.15 seconds at the first three splits but was eight-tenths off the lead just before the crash.
Travis Ganong was the leading American in 11th, followed by Jared Goldberg in 19th. Bryce Bennett was 24th.
The race in the Austrian Alps usually draws up to 50,000 spectators but no fans were allowed this year amid tight anti-coronavirus measures.
The event was rescheduled from another iconic resort, Wengen in Switzerland, where the race was canceled last week after a rise in COVID-19 infections.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more.
World Cup – Men’s Downhill – Kitzbühel, Austria – Jan. 22, 2021