Beat Feuz takes hold of Kitzbühel downhill, Swiss teammate Odermatt increases overall lead
Beat Feuz is once again the man to beat ahead of the Olympic downhill race at the Beijing Winter Games.
Feuz’s Swiss teammate Marco Odermatt also showed on Sunday that he has the talent and the form to become the big new star of alpine skiing in China.
Feuz was 0.21 seconds ahead of Odermatt in a clear double for the Swiss stars on the Streif downhill course in the last World Cup sprint before the Olympics.
Daniel Hemetsberger was third in 1:57.58 at home in Kitzbuhel, Austria, 0.90 behind Feuz. Matthias Mayer, the 2014 Olympic downhill gold medalist, finished fourth.
Toronto’s Jack Crawford led a four-man Canadian contingent in 23rd place (1:59.33) followed by Brodie Seger (36th, 2:00.15), Jeff Read (38th, 2:00.27) and Broderick Thompson (39th, 2:00.29) ).
Feuz, the four-time defending World Cup downhill champion, earned his first victory of the season on the eighth attempt, although it was also his fifth podium finish.
The 2018 Olympic bronze medalist’s next scheduled race is the first alpine skiing event at the Winter Games – the men’s downhill on Sunday February 6.
WATCH | Feuz narrowly beat his Swiss teammate Odermatt:
“Winning is a boost for the Olympics but I think I had a boost last week with the gift of a second daughter,” said Feuz, who announced Monday the arrival of a second child with his girlfriend.
Odermatt shines on demanding courses
As a three-time career winner on the dreaded Streif slope, Feuz should be a serious contender on a downhill course at Xiaohaituo which is famously steep although none of the World Cup riders have ever seen it.
The Olympic downhill course was created just months before the COVID-19 pandemic caused constant travel to China to see it. The men’s World Cup downhill and super-G races scheduled there in February 2020 were among the first international sporting events canceled as the coronavirus outbreak spread.
The leveling effect of the absence of runners with Olympic course experience looks likely to benefit the precocious talent of Odermatt, who extended his lead in the overall World Cup standings on Sunday.
The 24-year-old is a relative newcomer to downhill, with just 22 World Cup starts, but has now finished second in the past month at three of the most demanding courses – Bormio, Italy; Wengen, Switzerland; and now Kitzbühel.
“The big goal is to win a medal,” Odermatt said of her Olympic hopes in downhill, super-G and giant slalom. “We don’t know anything about China yet, we’ll see.”
Odermatt squandered his chance for victory on Sunday going fast and deep in the soft snow before barely slipping inside the left-turn gate entering Hausberg Passage near the finish. Three of the top 20 starters failed to make the same turn and were disqualified.
Odermatt will go into the Olympics with a big 375-point lead in the overall standings over Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the 2020 champion who placed sixth on Sunday after winning Friday’s downhill.
Kilde, who has three downhill wins this season, tops the discipline standings just eight points clear of Feuz with two races to go in March.
After high winds on Friday ruled out the use of the regular downhill start, riders completed the full 3.3-kilometre (2-mile) course that launched them in seconds into a jump of up to 45 meters (yards) in the air in the Mausefalle section.
Two Americans recorded the fastest speed approaching the jump across the finish line. Travis Ganong reached 141.6 km/h (88 mph), just faster than Bryce Bennett as they finished 11th and 12th respectively.
Victories in Kitzbühel are the most valuable on the men’s circuit and Feuz took home a check for 110,000 Swiss francs (US$120,000).
The men’s World Cup remains in Austria for a slalom on Tuesday in Schaldming, the last race before the Olympics from February 4-20.
WATCH | Kilde storms to victory in the downhill on Friday: