Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt claims first World Cup win at Birds of Prey super-G
BEAVER CREEK — There Marco Odermatt was, in the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup finish corral following his gutsy super-G run, wondering just how fast he was.
As the second skier on course and the first to finish, the confusion was understandable.
“I just enjoyed the moment in the leader box and waited,” Odermatt said.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
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Sixty-eight skiers later, Odermatt, 22, of Switzerland, had his first World Cup win — and newfound celebrity. His winning time of 1 minute, 10.90 seconds was good enough to hold off Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, just 0.10 seconds behind, and third-place finisher Matthias Mayer, of Austria.
“With bib No. 2, you don’t have any chances to see other guys how they race, how they took the line,” he said. “I just did a really good inspection, had the line into my head, and went for it full speed and it was really tight.”
That’s an understatement. Odermatt nearly straddled a gate up top on the technical course set, then made another mistake on the bottom half of the course where he nearly crossed his skis but managed to hold it all together.
It was the perfect super-G run, in the end, despite the mistakes — a high-risk gamble that paid off big.
“I almost lost everything but that’s part of the game in ski racing,” he said.
“He’s lucky to make it down,” said Steven Nyman, the U.S. Ski Team veteran who, at 37, made his 23rd start on the Birds of Prey course Friday, finishing 24th. Nyman’s first World Cup race at Beaver Creek was in 2005, when Odermatt was 8.
Nyman said he sees big things for the young Swiss skier whose previous best finishes came last season in giant slalom — a second at the World Cup finals in Soldeu, Andorra, and a third in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
“In the second split, he lost some time,” said Nyman, who has three podium finishes of his own in Beaver Creek. “So he can have a lot more speed than he even showed today. It’s impressive.”
Travis Ganong, the top American finisher, in sixth, called Odermatt’s triumph a “one out of 100 run.”
“It’s whoever is willing to take the most risk and then pull it off,” said Ganong, who was the day’s clear winner for the best cheering section. “Odermatt, he took way too much risk and somehow it worked out.”
With the win, Odermatt became the seventh first-time winner in the Birds of Prey super-G, joining a list that includes Bjarne Solbakken (2003), Stephan Goergl (2004), Hannes Reichelt (2005), Sandro Viletta (2011), Matteo Marsaglia (2012), and Vincent Kriechmayr (2017).
Three of those seven are Austrians, and Reichelt and Kriechmayr used their first wins at Beaver Creek as a launchpad to big careers, particularly Reichelt, who was the oldest racer in Friday’s field at 39.
Odermatt’s win also represented a changing of the guard in a race that had been won by Austrians the previous four years.
“He made a mistake, especially in the flat area, and I was not sure if he can be one of the fastest today,” said Mayer, the top Austrian on Friday. “But he risked a lot and he did it very well. Congratulations to him.”
Kilde, born five years later than Odermatt and a three-time World Cup winner, also looked on like a proud older brother when talking about the run that won it all on Friday.
“He’s for sure the guy for the future,” Kilde said, smiling. “He’s going to be the guy for Beaver Creek for the next 20 years.”
Vail Daily sports editor Chris Freud contributed reporting to this story.
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Herman is the freestyle skiing winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project, which honors the greatest athletes and most influential figures in Summit county ski and snowboard history.