Italian skier masters tricky Streif course
The Associated Press
KITZBUEHEL, Austria — As soon as Dominik Paris had mastered a tricky World Cup downhill on the Streif on Saturday, the Italian kneeled down and held both his skis up in the air.
For the second time in four years, Paris celebrated victory in what is arguably the toughest downhill race of the season.
“The first win just happened, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The second win was the hardest and is much more emotional.”
On a sun-soaked but bumpy and icy 3.3-kilometer course, Paris became the third Italian winner of the classic race in five years. He finished in 1 minute, 55.01 seconds to beat French duo Valentin Giraud Moine and Johan Clarey by 0.21 second and 0.33 second, respectively.
Last year’s winner, Peter Fill, was fourth, 0.40 second behind his Italian teammate.
It is Paris’ seventh victory and third at the Hahnenkamm races. He won the downhill there in 2013 and a super-G two years later.
“It’s one of the greatest races we have. I am always looking forward to it,” Paris said. “Especially when you’re in good shape. That makes it a bit easier.”
Paris earned his first win of the season, though he reached the podium in super-G races in Val d’Isere and Santa Caterina last month.
Saturday’s result sent him atop the downhill standings after this season’s three races, edging Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal by just two points and defending champion Fill by three points. Svindal ended his season after undergoing knee surgery earlier this week.
In a strong showing by the French team, Giraud Moine earned his second career top-three result and said, “All these years I have been dreaming of a podium in Kitzbuehel.”
Clarey returned to a World Cup podium for the first time in nearly three years.
“I was almost retired last year so this is a big surprise for me,” said Clarey, adding that French skiers always do well “when the slope is tough. The tougher it gets, the better we are.”
The race was carried out on the original course for the first time since 2013, when Paris last won it. Weather conditions forced organizers to lower the start gate and shorten the course each of the past three seasons, stripping it of the trademark Mausefalle passage.
Last year, the race in flat lights was called off after 30 starters and several crashes, with Svindal and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt among those involved.
This time, in perfect conditions, several racers were faster than Paris halfway through their runs, but nobody matched the Italian’s pace on the bottom section.
“From the Hausberg down, I nailed it,” Paris said. “But I was shaking several times. You can ski faster, but obviously, nobody was perfect in the traverse.”
Max Franz, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in training on the course last year, was in the lead at the first split by 0.11 second, but the Austrian — who won the previous downhill in Val Gardena — lost his right ski as he caught a bump in a left turn.
Italy’s Christof Innerhofer was 0.18 ahead of the field at the second split but was too wide in a right turn. Similar to Bode Miller’s fence-riding escape in 2008, Innerhofer used his left ski to push himself away from the netting and stay on the course.
The Italian lost much speed, though, and placed 17th, a day after finishing second in the super-G.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz led the field by 0.72 second but went off the race line in the traverse before the finish section and skied into the safety netting.
“I risked everything,” said Feuz, who was unhurt. “If you want to win, you have to risk everything, but the Streif does not forgive anything.”
Steven Nyman, who led the first training run on Wednesday, was the best American, finishing 10th and 0.84 second behind Paris.
The 77th edition of the Hahnenkamm races ends with a slalom today.
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