Kucera wins worlds downhill, Bode Miller 8th in fog | AspenTimes.com

Kucera wins worlds downhill, Bode Miller 8th in fog

Graham Dunbar
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Canada's John Kucera speeds down the course on his way to winning the Men's Downhill race, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Val d'Isere, France, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Elvis Piazzi)

VAL D’ISERE, France ” John Kucera became the first Canadian man to win the downhill at the world championships on Saturday, while Bode Miller finished eighth in the fog.

The 24-year-old Kucera clocked 2 minutes, 7.01 seconds down the steep and icy Face de Bellevarde course. Didier Cuche of Switzerland was 0.04 behind and Carlo Janka of Switzerland was third.

“It was the race of my life,” said Kucera, who competed second under clear skies and good light.

By the time Miller went at No. 19, the American was shrouded in mist at the top half. Miller, who races independently of the official U.S. Ski team, didn’t protest to race again.

“Team America does not file protests,” said Miller, who trailed the winner by 1.37. “I don’t really care. I wouldn’t want to run this thing again. It’s just too demanding.”

Michael Walchhofer of Austria was allowed a second chance to race because officials thought he started his initial run after the call for a fog delay.

But after studying video from the starting gate, the race jury decided two hours later that Walchhofer began his first descent before the delay was called. His first run time stood, leaving him in 12th place.

“It was a long wait,” Kucera said. “I was definitely nervous when Walchhofer came down the second time. To get my first downhill podium in a World Championship is unbelievable.”

Kucera’s previous best downhill finish was seventh in November 2007 at Lake Louise, Canada.

Early racers were clocking 82 mph on the fastest upper sections of the 1.86-mile course, which was used for the 1992 Albertville Olympics.

Miller was followed in poor light by fellow former world champions Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Walchhofer. None could come close to challenging Kucera’s time.

U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said he talked with the race jury about getting Miller a second chance.

“There’s nothing I could do,” Rearick said. “Walchhofer got to go again because he got mixed signals. Bode had the worst light of anybody, him and Svindal. They both could have stopped and asked for a rerun.”

Kucera’s win comes a year before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“This is huge for us going into the Olympics,” said Canadian Manuel Osborne-Paradis. “Especially for John, who has been struggling in giant slalom. There were some questions about the weather but some of the later guys had good weather, including Cuche.”

Austrian great Hermann Maier finished sixth after being first out of the gate, paving the way for Kucera.

“The snow was pretty soft on top and John skied almost the same line as me,” Maier said. “Maybe that is why he won today. On top, the snow was pretty fast.”

Didier Defago of Switzerland had trouble making a tight right-hand turn halfway down and lost control in trying to squeeze inside a gate. He crashed and slid face-first into the fence but got up and seemed unhurt.

Canada’s Jan Hudec ” defending the downhill silver medal he won two years ago ” also crashed out after his left ski went away from him at a turn near the finish. He slid for 50 yards with his skis still attached before being stopped by the fences. He took some time to get up but skied down to the finish area.

Marco Sullivan of the United States finished 25th, while teammates Erik Fisher and Andrew Weibrecht joined 10 others who failed to finish.

After Marco Buechel placed fourth, the 37-year-old from Liechtenstein announced it would be his final world championships.

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