Matthias Mayer

Matthias Mayer ends Kitzbuehel downhill drought for Austria

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KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — For the second time in two days at the 80th Hahnenkamm races, Matthias Mayer spread his arms and bent over backward in celebration.

While his leading time in Friday’s World Cup super-G didn’t hold up, his gutsy run on the Streif course on Saturday earned him the victory in the classic downhill, becoming the first Austrian winner of the event in six years.

In cloudy conditions but on a perfect track, Mayer finished 0.22 ahead of Austrian teammate Vincent Kriechmayr and Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who tied for second.

“There is nothing better than crossing the finish in front of those thousands of people. It’s really incredible,” said Mayer, who won the super-G here three years ago.

“In Kitzbuehel there is always tension but I was just looking forward to this race, I wanted to enjoy it,” he added.

It was the eighth career World Cup win for the two-time Olympic champion and third of the season, after triumphing in a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December and an Alpine combined in Wengen, Switzerland, last week.

No Austrian had won the prestigious race, which is usually attended by tens of thousands of spectators, since Hannes Reichelt in 2014.

“It’s very important, simply cool,” Mayer said about winning one of the marquee events of the season.

World Cup downhill champion Feuz was denied victory in the circuit’s most challenging race once again, as he finished runner-up for the fourth time in the last five years.

“Again I was not fast enough,” Feuz said. “But second place on the most difficult course in Kitzbuehel, you have to be satisfied. In Wengen luck has been on my side three times, here in Kitzbuehel it has not been on my side.”

Feuz, however, extended his lead in the discipline standings, having finished in the top three each race this season.

Feuz is currently 96 points clear of Dominik Paris, who won the downhill here last season, while Mayer climbed to third, trailing Feuz by 180 points.

Paris has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after the Italian tore the ACL and fractured the fibula head in his right knee in a crash during super-G practice this week.

“It’s a shame what happened to Dominik. That was a super battle,” Feuz said. “The gap is a bit bigger now. But Mayer has also been top five all the time so I cannot allow myself to make mistakes.”

Feuz led the race until Kriechmayr clocked the same time. It was already the sixth race this season with a tie for a podium place, which also happened in Friday’s super-G.

Kriechmayr crashed in Thursday’s downhill training and placed a disappointing sixth in the super-G the next day.

“It was a good run, I wanted to show that I could do better than yesterday,” he said after the Austrian 1-2 finish. “Our fans have deserved this. We have don’t well in recent years.”

France duo Johan Clarey and Maxence Muzaton placed fourth and fifth, respectively, while Kjetil Jansrud, who won the super-G Friday, finished sixth.

American downhiller Steven Nyman was among the fastest starters and still was ahead of Mayer’s time at the fourth split time but he couldn’t match the Austrian’s pace in the demanding bottom section of the course.

Nyman came 1.05 off the lead in 13th, five places behind the best American finisher, Bryce Bennett.

Peter Fill, who won the race in 2016 for one of his three career victories, failed to finish before announcing his retirement at the end of the season after 17 years on the circuit.

The 37-year-old Italian won the World Cup downhill title in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017, and the Alpine combined rankings the following year. Fill also won super-G silver at the 2009 world championships.

The Hahnenkamm races traditionally end with a slalom on Sunday.

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MORE: Lindsey Vonn goes to Kitzbuehel, still feeling sadness of retirement

Italy’s Dominik Paris gets third-career Kitzbuehel downhill win

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Severe weather conditions forced event organizers to rejigger the race schedule in Kitzbuehel this weekend. Heavy snowfall and the subsequent use of water to ice the infamous downhill course, affectionately referred to as the “Super Bowl of Skiing,” created a track which gave skiers fits in training runs.

For example, Austria’s Matthias Mayer was the fastest skier on the hill in Tuesday’s training, but dropped to 35th on Thursday.

The name that kept coming up as the potential victor for Friday, according to FIS-ski.com, was Italy’s Dominik Paris. This time, the experts got it right.

Paris is the only active skier to win multiple downhill races in Kitzbuehel, winning the race in 2013 and 2017. In training runs this week, Paris ranked third and fourth.

On Friday, Paris did tame the mountain. It was a back-and-forth battle with the clock down the course for Paris. He held a slim lead early in his run, then slipped behind the pace set by then-current leader, Switzerland’s Beat Feuz. But Paris found the speed he needed in the end, crossing the finish line .20 hundredths of a second ahead of Feuz.

Joining Paris and Feuz on the podium in third, racing on home snow, was Austria’s Otmar Striedinger. Wearing bib #27, Striedinger entered the day ranked 24th in downhill World Cup points.

Full results are here.

The U.S.’ Bryce Bennett, coming off three-straight top five downhill finishes, including last week’s event in Wengen, finished 14th. Travis Ganong, also skiing for the U.S., finished 19th.

Last week’s two-time winner in the downhill and Alpine combined, Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, posted one of the most impressive DNFs of the day in Kitzbuehel. To his credit, Kriechmayr was able to cross the finish line, but not without fishtailing out of control at two separate sections of the course. Both times, he was able to recover and avoid becoming the red net’s latest victim.

Ski racing starts early on Saturday for stateside fans. The first run of men’s slalom gets underway at 3:30 a.m. ET from Kitzbuehel, with the second run starting at 6:30 a.m. ET. However, those times could change with winter weather expected to impact the mountain over the weekend. Watch the racing live from Kitzbuehel on NBC Sports Gold.

The women’s World Cup tour will run its first race of the weekend, the Super-G, from the picturesque Bavarian region of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, GaPa for short, starting at 4:00 a.m. ET, Saturday morning.

On Thursday, the U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn announced she would not be racing in GaPa. Last week in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Vonn had made her return to World Cup racing after being sidelined since Novermber with an injured left knee.

After skiing out in the Super-G on Sunday in Cortina, Vonn announced on Instagram she was battling new and severe nerve pain in one of her knees. Vonn believes the most recent injury was caused by a jump she took during a Super-G training run in Cortina. She hopes to return to racing before the end of the season.

Watch the women’s World Cup live on TV on Olympic Channel or stream it on NBC Sports Gold.

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Vincent Kriechmayr picks up World Cup downhill win

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“Mammas don’t let your babies grow up to be downhillers” was the sentiment offered by NBC Sports’ Steve Porino as the most experienced alpine racers attacked the downhill course in Wengen on Saturday.

Skiers like reigning Olympic downhill champion, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, in his 18th World Cup season, continue to find ways to will their bodies past pain to compete for the podium. After taking 10 days off to rest an ailing right knee, Svindal, skiing third, looked fresh and took the early lead.

Two skiers later, the reigning world champ and current World Cup points leader in downhill, Swiss skier Beat Feuz, thrilled his home-country crowd by bumping Svindal off the top spot by .38 hundredths of a second.    

But it was Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr who ultimately mastered the treacherous hairpin turns and narrow snowy chutes in Wengen to win his second-career World Cup downhill race. Kriechmayer was in a dead heat with Feuz as he neared the finish, but commanded his skies into two near-perfect turns to claim the lead by .14 hundredths of a second.

Rounding out the podium behind Kriechmayr and Feuz was Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in third. Full results are here.

Even the best downhillers in the world struggled to reach the finish line in Wengen. Austria’s Max Franz, second in the downhill World Cup point standings, crashed in his run, as did his countryman two-time Olympic champion Matthias Mayer.

The U.S.’ Steve Nyman gave spectators and fellow skiers a scare when he lost control during his run, going airborne for a moment, before coming to a stop in the middle of the course. Luckily, Nyman avoided becoming entangled in the protective fencing and was able to ski away seemingly unscathed.

Bryce Bennett continued to be the bright spot for the U.S. downhill skiers, finishing his day in fifth, .63 hundredths of a second behind Kriechmayr. Bennett has flirted with downhill podiums as of late, finishing fourth in two previous races this season.

Tomorrow the men’s World Cup wraps up its weekend in Switzerland with the slalom. Stream the first run live on OlympicChannel.com or on NBC Sports Gold starting at 4:15 a.m. EST. Watch the second and deciding run on TV on Olympic Channel or stream it on NBC Sports Gold at 7:15 a.m. ET.

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