Switzerland

Luca Aerni’s surprise combined gold gives Swiss its best worlds in 26 years

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Swiss Luca Aerni didn’t know if he’d be racing the world championships super combined until Sunday night. He ended up winning gold, beating the world’s best skier by .01 on Monday.

Aerni became the third host-nation gold medalist in six races so far at worlds, edging World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria after downhill and slalom runs in St. Moritz. The unheralded Aerni was the last of four Swiss named to the super combined roster Sunday night.

Another Swiss, Mauro Caviezel, earned bronze, .06 behind, after missing all of the 2015-16 season due to injuries.

There are still five races left at worlds, but the Swiss already have their best medal haul in 26 years, since the tail end of their dominant era of the likes of Vreni Schneider and Pirmin Zurbriggen.

The top American was Bryce Bennett in 11th. The U.S. men haven’t had a top-10 in three worlds races so far.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

Aerni, 23, was a complete surprise, the first Olympic or world champion without a World Cup podium to his name since 2007. He repeated the feat of Hirscher of two years ago, placing 30th in the morning downhill run and running first in the afternoon slalom en route to gold.

“I was really nervous the last 45 minutes waiting for everyone to finish,” said Aerni, who was 2.61 seconds behind after the downhill but 1.6 seconds faster than everyone in the slalom except Hirscher, who was .32 slower. “I could only watch and hope as the others came down. I knew my slalom run was good, but with the combined you never know what will happen. It was definitely a long wait until I realized I had the gold medal.”

Aerni’s best World Cup finish is fifth. He previously raced once at the Olympics and once at worlds, failing to finish each run.

Hirscher said he raced Monday after spending the previous two days sick in bed, according to SkiRacing.com.

“It is pretty impressive to myself that I am on the podium in this super combined,” he said, according to the report. “It was a little bit nerve-wracking if you see crossing the finish line one hundredth of a second behind.”

Like Aerni, Caviezel came in with a best World Cup finish of fifth and no prior Olympic or worlds medals.

The top three finishers overall also had the top three slalom times.

Pre-race favorite Alexis Pinturault of France was in decent position after the morning downhill, 1.46 seconds behind Austrian leader Romed Baumann, but uncharacteristically struggled in the slalom and wound up 10th. Pinturault remains the winningest men’s World Cup racer (19 victories) without an Olympic or world title. Baumann ended up 12th.

Earlier at worlds, Wendy Holdener won the women’s combined and Beat Feuz took the men’s downhill for Switzerland. The Swiss earned one world title total among the 2011, 2013 and 2015 Worlds.

The World Championships continue with the team event, a new Olympic event, on Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule

Roger Federer takes in World Champs with Lindsey Vonn

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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer picked a good day for a front-row seat to his first ski races.

Switzerland’s most famous resident came to St. Moritz on Sunday for a world championships doubleheader in marquee downhill races, featuring his friend Lindsey Vonn and home favorite Beat Feuz.

Vonn took a bronze medal she thought worth its weight in gold after an injury-hit year. Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia capped her breakout season to win and set up a duel for the 2018 Olympic downhill title.

The American star then completed her post-race interviews just in time to join Federer and his wife, Mirka, watching in the stands as Feuz raced to become men’s world champion.

Still, the biggest impression left on Federer — who won the Australian Open last month in 104-degree summer temperatures — might have been the below-freezing temperatures.

“I’m finding it cold,” Federer quipped in an interview with the French-language Swiss state broadcaster. “It’s not usual for me, especially sitting here in the cold.”

Federer, who has a mountain home close to nearby Lenzerheide, said he felt lucky seeing both downhills — the first time in 10 years the prestigious races ran back-to-back at worlds. Fog on Saturday had forced the scheduled men’s start to be postponed.

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule

Swiss Beat Feuz wins men’s downhill world title at home

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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Host nation Switzerland got the world championships gold medal it most wanted when Beat Feuz won the downhill Sunday.

Roger Federer had a front-row seat in the stands to see Feuz finish 0.12 seconds faster than Erik Guay of Canada, denying the winner of Wednesday’s super-G a speed title double.

Max Franz of Austria was third, 0.37 behind Feuz, who took downhill bronze two years ago.

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

Though Feuz’s top speed of 119 kph (74 mph) was slower than many rivals, he was best at keeping speed through the twisting turns midway down a shortened course.

“I felt the pressure,” said Feuz, favored to repeat his win in the World Cup finals downhill last March, through a translator. “I knew the expectations of the Swiss people. It was important not to go crazy with all that.”

A lower start was used because the steep “Free Fall” section – the signature feature of the Corviglia course – was shrouded in clouds, and a lower start was used. Sunshine lit the slope one day after more fog forced the race to be postponed on Feuz’s 30th birthday.

The marquee men’s race shaped as open when the Olympic champion, world champion, season-long World Cup champion, and the past six World Cup race winners were all different racers.

Still, Feuz carried Swiss hopes on a home course he knows well, and had been fastest in a training run on Tuesday.

Racing as the No. 13 starter, Feuz broke a tie for the lead after Swiss teammate Patrick Kueng, the defending champion, matched Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. Kueng and Jansrud even posted the same time at each of the first two check points, and eventually shared fourth place.

“Hats off to Beat, I think he did an incredible job today,” said the 35-year-old Guay, who was seeking to match Bode Miller‘s achievement 12 years ago of winning both speed races. “I felt some pressure, for sure.”

Feuz joined Swiss teammate Wendy Holdener, winner of the women’s combined event on Friday, as home gold medalists from the first five races.

The Swiss men’s team had underachieved this season, and its only win on the World Cup circuit was a fluke success for Niels Hintermann in a snow-affected combined event at Wengen. Hintermann was not selected in the five-man Swiss team Sunday.

The Swiss got it right, and the Alpine nation’s most famous resident Federer, sitting with his wife Mirka, and Lindsey Vonn, looked on approvingly.

Vonn took bronze two hours earlier in the women’s downhill, won by Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

Stuhec was faster than any of the men Sunday, clocking 125.6 kph (78 mph) on the adjoining course.

Without their steep start, the men’s race peaked at 122.5 kph (76 mph) clocked by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who placed 17th.

“I would have loved to start from Free Fall because it’s a little bit faster then,” said Feuz, whose run turned out to be fast enough regardless.

Worlds continue with the men’s super combined Monday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Alpine Worlds broadcast schedule