Beat Feuz wins Kitzbühel in last downhill before Olympics

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KITZBÜHEL, Austria — Beat Feuz is again the man to beat heading to the Olympic downhill race at the Beijing Winter Games.

Feuz’s Swiss teammate Marco Odermatt also showed again Sunday he has the talent and form to be Alpine skiing’s big new star in China.

Feuz was 0.21 seconds ahead of Odermatt in a clear 1-2 finish for Switzerland’s stars on the storied Streif downhill course in the last World Cup speed race before the Olympics.

Daniel Hemetsberger of Austria was third, trailing 0.90 behind Feuz. Matthias Mayer, the 2014 Olympic downhill gold medalist, was fourth.

Feuz, the four-time defending World Cup downhill champion, got his first win of the season at the eighth attempt, though 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, Feb. 6.

“Winning is a boost for the Olympic Games but I think I got a boost last week with a gift of a second daughter,” said Feuz, who on Monday had announced the arrival of a second child with his partner.

As a three-time career winner on the daunting Streif slope, Feuz should be a strong contender on a downhill course at Xiaohaituo that is reputedly steep though none of the World Cup racers have ever seen it.

The Olympic downhill course was created just months before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has consistently prevented travel to China to see it. Men’s World Cup downhill and super-G races scheduled there in February 2020 were among the first international sports events canceled as the coronavirus outbreak spread.

The leveling effect of no racers having experience of the Olympic course seems likely to benefit the precociously talented Odermatt, who extended his lead Sunday in the overall World Cup standings.

The 24-year-old is a relative newcomer to downhill, with only 22 World Cup starts, yet now has runner-up finishes 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 his Olympic prospects in downhill, super-G and giant slalom. “We don’t know anything about China yet so we will see.”

Odermatt lost his chance of victory Sunday when going fast and wide into the soft snow before barely squeezing inside the left-turn gate entering the Hausberg passage near the finish. Three of the top-20 ranked starters failed to make the same turn and were disqualified.

Odermatt will go to the Olympics with a big 375-point lead in the overall standings from Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the 2020 champion who placed sixth Sunday after winning Friday’s downhill.

Kilde, who has three downhill wins this season, leads the discipline standings by just eight points from Feuz with two races left in March.

After strong winds Friday ruled out using the regular downhill start, racers came down the full 2-mile course that launched them within seconds into a jump of up to 45 meters through the air into the Mausefalle section.

Two Americans clocked the fastest speed approaching the jump into the finish line. Travis Ganong hit 88 mph, just faster than Bryce Bennett as they finished 11th and 12th, respectively.

Wins at Kitzbühel are the most valuable on the men’s circuit and Feuz earned a check for 110,000 Swiss francs ($120,000).

The men’s World Cup stays in Austria for a slalom on Tuesday at Schaldming that is the last race before the Feb. 4-20 Olympics.

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