KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP)Aleksander Aamodt Kilde turned around his Kitzbuehel weekend Saturday, winning the second men’s World Cup downhill on the demanding Streif course after overcoming two eventful days in the posh Austrian ski resort.
The Norwegian fractured a bone in his right hand during Thursday’s training, then needed an acrobatic recovery in the race the next day to escape a fall near the end of his run, which he called ”scary.”
But racing under low clouds and in light snowfall on Saturday, he sped down the 3.3-kilometer course with no apparent mistakes, winning the storied race for the second time in his career.
”I’m super, super proud of what I did,” Kilde said. ”We had to dig deep today to get it going. I was really happy with my run today.”
Attended by 45,000 spectators, including high-profile guests from politics, society, and sport, the downhill on the Streif is the World Cup race with the highest prize money, paying 100,000 euros ($109,000) to the winner.
Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American skiing great Lindsey Vonn were among the first to congratulate Kilde, even before the race was officially over as lower-ranked skiers were still coming down.
”That’s just Kitzbuehel,” Kilde said. ”The weather is difficult, and the second training was not good, with the hand. But today, I had a good feeling. I had no pain in my hand and gave full gas. I did everything I could do, I’m satisfied.”
The victory made Kilde the first male skier to win five downhills in a single season since Austrian standout Stephan Eberharter won seven times in the 2001-02 campaign.
Kilde was joined on the podium by two racers who have announced their retirement for after the season: French veteran Johan Clarey finished 0.67 seconds behind, and American downhiller Travis Ganong trailed by 0.95 in third.
”Alex was too strong. I could not beat him today but I’m happy with my race,” said Clarey, who turned 42 this month and is the oldest skier on a podium in the 56-year history of Alpine skiing’s World Cup.
”I’m trying to enjoy it until the end. I want to end my career on a good year with good results and healthy,” said Clarey, who had a top-three result in downhill for the 10th time but is yet to win a race.
Ganong said he fancied the tough conditions because of the snowfall when he got to the start in the morning hours.
”For me, it’s like another day at home. In Lake Tahoe, California, it’s snowing like crazy. I actually love it when it’s a snow storm,” Ganong said after earning his fifth career downhill podium but first in six years. ”My goal all season was to perform here. This is the biggest race so it’s awesome to perform here.”
Mattia Casse of Italy was the only other racer to finish within a second of Kilde’s time. Friday’s winner Vincent Kriechmayr was 1.30 back in fifth. The Austrian won all three downhills this season that Kilde didn’t win.
It was Kilde’s seventh win overall this season, matching his total from last year, and again equaling the Norwegian’s best mark previously reached by Kjetil Jansrud in 2014-15 and Aksel Lund Svindal the following season.
Kilde still trails overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt by 225 points. The Swiss skier sat out the race, resting after hurting his left knee in a near-crash in Friday’s downhill.
Ganong’s American teammate Jared Goldberg, who finished a career-best fourth on Friday, slid off the course into the safety netting. His race suit ripped open in the fall but Goldberg got up and skied down with no apparent injuries.
Olympic downhill champion Beat Feuz finished two seconds off the pace in 16th in what was the last race of his career. Feuz, who won three downhills in Kitzbuehel and 16 World Cup races in total, announced his retirement last December.
It was the last men’s World Cup downhill before the Feb. 12 world championship race in Courchevel, France.
The race weekend in Kitzbuehel ends with a slalom Sunday.
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