Austrian downhill contender Hannes Reichelt will miss Olympics

Hannes Reichelt
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Hannes Reichelt will miss the Sochi Olympics due to a back injury, knocking out Austria’s top medal hope in the downhill.

Reichelt, 33, won the biggest race of his career in the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on Saturday. An MRI revealed a herniated disk in his back Monday.

“Surgery is unavoidable,” Reichelt said in a statement Monday, according to The Associated Press. “Health comes in first place, and I want to keep doing sports after my career. Unfortunately my Olympic dream is in shatters.”

Reichelt is ranked No. 2 in the World Cup downhill standings. His absence from Sochi makes leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway an even clearer favorite in Sochi.

Svindal is the reigning Olympic silver medalist and world champion.

Another threat to Svindal, Italian world silver medalist Dominik Paris, hasn’t finished better than 15th in a World Cup race since suffering a leg injury in a December fall.

Reichelt’s absence and Paris’ recovery improve the medal chances of two 36-year-olds.

2010 Olympic champion Didier Defago won his first World Cup race in more than two years on Sunday, a super-G in Kitzbuehel.

2010 Olympic bronze medalist Bode Miller finished third behind Reichelt and Svindal in the Kitzbuehel downhill Saturday.

Austria leaves Vancouver gold medalist off Olympic Team