On Saturday in Garmisch, the men competing on the downhill circuit brought their A game to the Kandahar track. The race opened with Germany’s Thomas Dressen, the man of the hour. Born in Mittenwald, a small town in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district, the German downhiller successfully broke a 28-year dry spell to earn a home win on the famed track.
Having skied down the course in Bib 1, Dressen, 26, was welcomed into the finish by a roaring crowd and a spot in the hot seat. From there, the German sat, waiting patiently to see if any of his competitors would trip the time and top his run. A lot of the men put on a good show, but Dressen’s time ended up being untouchable. He took the win over Norway’s Aleksander Kilde, 0.16 seconds back. For Dressen, it was the second win of the season, made all the more sweeter in front of the home crowd.
“There are some parts on every course where I know I’m not able to gain any time, where it makes no sense for me to risk it there,” said Dressen. “Today I tried to focus on the basics – what went wrong in Kitzbuehel, ski clean and have fun, knowing where I could be fast, and where I had to hang tight.”
Although Dressen’s time went untouched, the competition was high in Garmisch. Event organizers and FIS decided earlier in the week to run the race on a shortened track, but it was made more challenging with more four jumps. The steepest section of the course was then visible from the grandstands for the enjoyment of the fans. Even with the shortened track, times still ran like a normal downhill with the competition packed in more tightly than expected given the course changes. At the end of the day, the back half of the top 10 was only five-tenths out from Dressen’s winning time.
“It was a really tight race, only five-tenths out for the top 10 and I was right in front of this whole gang,” said second-place finisher, Kilde. “I was right in front of Johan Clarey, so I can’t complain about a second-place.”
Kilde added another podium to his successful season and will now compete for the overall crystal globe as a speed specialist, a feat now made more possible with Marcel Hirscher out of the game. The last “speed-oriented” athlete to have won the overall title was Switzerland’s Carlo Janka during the 2009-10 season. Now Kilde has a shot. He ranked third in the downhill standings, and second in both super-G and alpine combined, Kilde currently sits 61 points behind Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen in the race for the overall title.
“I think right now, anything can happen,” said Kilde. “I think with my skiing right now and how stable it is, I can be up there and fighting for the big globe but I’ll take it race by race. There are good guys fighting for the same globe. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m not going to give up.”
The tightness of the field in Garmisch demonstrated just how much it takes for athletes to break into the top 10, let alone the top three. The day’s fifth-place finisher, Travis Ganong, was impressed, but not surprised, by Saturday’s overall results. In Garmisch, coming off of Wengen and Kitzbuehel, the downhill men are hungry to prove they have what it takes to conquer yet another challenge with the confidence of two classic races behind them.
“The level is really high in downhill right now. There are different guys on the podium and winning every week. It’s amazing how competitive it is,” said Ganong. “I think there’s always this mystique around Garmisch being dark and bumpy and gnarly. When I first made the U.S. team and all the guys were saying this, it got in my head a little bit but for some reason with my style of skiing, it really works.”
Ganong led the way for the Americans in fifth, followed by Ryan-Cochran Siegle tied for 12th with German Josef Ferstl. Jared Goldberg, Bryce Bennett, and Steven Nyman also scored points, finishing in 20th, 23rd, and 29th respectively.
In addition to celebrating Dressen’s well-deserved win, the ski racing community and fans in Garmisch-Partenkirchen also took a moment to celebrate the final fun of Peter Fill’s career.
Fill has long been a dominant presence in the speed events on the men’s World Cup. As the downhill crystal globe champion in 2016 and 2017, Fill chose to end his career with dignity after a back injury plagued his skiing over the past two seasons.
The 37-year-old crashed hard in the Beaver Creek downhill in December of 2018, and fought hard to come back from his crash for the remainder of the season. By the end of the summer, Fill realized that the 2020 season would be his last, given the current state of his body. He had hoped to make it through to World Finals in Cortina, but can no longer withstand the pain that he must tolerate in order to ski as fast as he would like. He cannot qualify for Finals in Cortina, so Fill and his team made the decision to end his run, a move they announced after the Hahnenkamm downhill on Saturday, January 25th.
“My head is hungry for more but my body says no to me,” Fill stated sadly in a press conference after the Kitzbuehel downhill the previous weekend.
Fill took the opportunity to take a leisurely downhill run, waving to fans and coaches that lined the course’s B netting as he made his way down to the finish. There, he was greeted by teammates, eager to celebrate a long and successful career. In addition to his two downhill titles, Fill also earned a title in the super-G, as well as two World Championship medals. Fill competed in four Olympic Games, seven World Championship events, and was Junior World Champion in his early years racing. After being doused by bottles of champagne and taking a swig for himself, Fill greeted his wife and kids, and celebrated his final moments in the finish clad in full gear and skis.
“Skiing has been my life and it is not easy to stop,” he said. “I have always given my best and want to pass so much on to my younger colleagues and fight right up until the end.”
On Sunday, the men take on the Garmisch giant slalom, set to begin at 10:30 am CET.
- Thomas Dressen (GER): 1:39.31
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR): +0.16
- Johan Clarey (FRA): +0.17
- Vincent Kreichmayr (AUT): +0.26
- Travis Ganong (USA): +0.27
- Beat Feuz (SUI): +0.35
- Niels Hintermann (SUI): +0.39
- Kjetil Jansrud (NOR): +0.49
- Max Franz (AUT): +0.52
- Emanuele Buzzi (ITA): +0.54
For full race results, click here.