Host Swiss get gold as Beat Feuz wins downhill world title
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Host nation Switzerland got the world championships gold medal it most wanted when Beat Feuz won the downhill Sunday.
Roger Federer had a front-row seat in the stands to see Feuz finish 0.12 seconds faster than Erik Guay of Canada, denying the winner of Wednesday’s super-G a speed title double.
Max Franz of Austria was third, 0.37 behind Feuz, who took downhill bronze two years ago.
Though Feuz’s top speed of 119 kph (74 mph) was slower than many rivals, he was best at keeping speed through the twisting turns midway down a shortened course.
“I felt the pressure,” said Feuz, favored to repeat his win in the World Cup finals downhill last March, through a translator. “I knew the expectations of the Swiss people. It was important not to go crazy with all that.”
A lower start was used because the steep “Free Fall” section — the signature feature of the Corviglia course — was shrouded in clouds, and a lower start was used. Sunshine lit the slope one day after more fog forced the race to be postponed on Feuz’s 30th birthday.
The marquee men’s race shaped as open when the Olympic champion, world champion, season-long World Cup champion, and the past six World Cup race winners were all different racers.
Still, Feuz carried Swiss hopes on a home course he knows well, and had been fastest in a training run on Tuesday.
Racing as the No. 13 starter, Feuz broke a tie for the lead after Swiss teammate Patrick Kueng, the defending champion, matched Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. Kueng and Jansrud even posted the same time at each of the first two check points, and eventually shared fourth place.
“Hats off to Beat, I think he did an incredible job today,” said the 35-year-old Guay, who was seeking to match Bode Miller’s achievement 12 years ago of winning both speed races. “I felt some pressure, for sure.”
Feuz joined Swiss teammate Wendy Holdener, winner of the women’s combined event on Friday, as home gold medalists from the first five races.
The Swiss men’s team had underachieved this season, and its only win on the World Cup circuit was a fluke success for Niels Hintermann in a snow-affected combined event at Wengen. Hintermann was not selected in the five-man Swiss team Sunday.
The Swiss got it right, and the Alpine nation’s most famous resident Federer, sitting with his wife Mirka, and Lindsey Vonn, looked on approvingly.
Vonn took bronze two hours earlier in the women’s downhill race, won by Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.
Stuhec was faster than any of the men Sunday, clocking 125.6 kph (78 mph) on the adjoining course.
Without their steep start, the men’s race peaked at 122.5 kph (76 mph) clocked by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who placed 17th.
“I would have loved to start from Free Fall because it’s a little bit faster then,” said Feuz, whose run turned out to be fast enough regardless.