CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Vincent Kriechmayr matched two legends of Alpine skiing at the world championships Sunday by adding downhill gold to the super-G title he won three days ago.
The Austrian became only the third man to complete the so-called speed double at a worlds after Hermann Maier did it in 1999 and Bode Miller in 2005.
“Hermann Maier is an Austrian legend and Bode Miller is a legend, too. To be on the same step is really amazing,” Kriechmayr said.
“I don’t compare myself to Hermann or Bode Miller, they were also Olympic and World Cup overall champions,” said the Austrian, adding it would take time to sink in.
“I’m rather someone who enjoys this quietly, who reflects on it later.”
The race against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks in the Italian Dolomites lived up to its billing as one of the most eye-catching downhills of the season, with spectacular crashes, faltering favorites, a surprise medalist, and the smallest possible winning margin.
Kriechmayr edged Andreas Sander of Germany to the gold by one-hundredth of a second, with 2017 world champion Beat Feuz finishing 0.18 behind for the bronze.
Sander earned the German team its third silver medal at these worlds, after second-place finishes for Romed Baumann in super-G and Kira Weidle in women’s downhill.
“It’s a mega feeling,” Sander said. “We have a great atmosphere in the team after Romed got silver and Kira as well.”
Baumann was in the spotlight again right after he finished Sunday’s race but this time for a nasty fall, sliding skis first into the protective banners and completely disappearing beneath them.
Freed by coaches and officials, he came out with blood on his face and race suit.
German ski federation sports director Wolfgang Maier said Baumann sustained a cut on his face but escaped serious injuries.
In another frightening incident, Maxence Muzaton avoided a serious crash when he caught a bump and fell head-first after losing control over his right ski at 120 kph (74.5 mph).
The Frenchman used an acrobatic recovery as he turned around and got upright while skiing backwards before coming to a standstill.
Kriechmayr avoided similarly spectacular scenes when he opened the race on an icy course after a freezing cold night.
Without a course report, he still judged a tricky middle section of the slope to perfection.
The passage included – untypically for a downhill – six sharp turns, but the Austrian carried the perfect speed going through to keep the fastest line.
However, he had to come out of his tuck several times on the flats near the end of his run.
“It was a really special race today with bib No. 1 and it wasn’t so easy,” Kriechmayr said. “The nice thing about ski racing is that you can always improve. There is no such thing as a perfect game like in other sports.”
Sander started second and soon lost three-tenths on Kriechmayr but the German racer was faster on the bottom part.
Only one of the remaining 40 starters came even close to the leading pair but Feuz ultimately trailed by 0.18 for bronze.
The rest of the field, led by Italian home favorite Dominik Paris and Swiss skier Marco Odermatt who shared fourth position, was at least 0.65 off the lead.
One of the pre-race favorites, 2014 Olympic champion Matthias Mayer, started strongly but missed a gate halfway through his run.
Defending world champion Kjetil Jansrud finished just more than a second behind in eighth.
“It’s disappointing,” said the Norwegian, who had only one top 10 result in downhill this World Cup season.
“What I could do today, is bring out everything physically and mentally and I felt like I did that.”
Jansrud’s teammate Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the overall World Cup champion, is out for the season with a knee injury.
The turning section that decided the race had been sharply criticized by many racers after the first official training session on Friday.
Organizers reset those gates to make the course slightly more fluent, but many downhillers still struggled.
“It was a downhill like I’ve never seen before. It was like a giant slalom,” Feuz said. “I know where I lost my 18-hundreths. This will never be my favorite course.”
Kriechmayr said his winning recipe was “to ski not too round and not too straight.
“It’s a lot of turns but Kitzbühel and Wengen also have such turns that usually nobody would set for a downhill,” he added. “It’s not a typical downhill, but it doesn’t matter to me on what course I win.”
Bryce Bennett had one of his better results of the 2020-21 season, scoring a top-10 finish in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships downhill in 10th place. Travis Ganong was just behind him in 12th.
“I’m pretty fired up,” said Bennett. “We made some equipment changes and it really showed on the second training run. I tried to give it everything I could today.”
Ganong finished just .14 seconds behind Bennett in 12th. Rounding out the Americans, Jared Goldberg secured a top-20 finish, in 20th.
The race was interrupted when Florian Schieder was thrown off the bumpy course midway through his run.
The Italian was hospitalized with a suspected rupture of his left knee ligaments.
The worlds continue Monday with the combined events for both women and men.
World Championships – Men’s Downhill – Cortina d’Ampezzo – Feb. 14, 2021