It feels like a full-circle moment for Dominik Paris, who returns on a Downhill race’s podium 366 days after the knee injury he suffered from in Kitzbühel. The South Tyrolean has a second chance for an even better result in the Sunday event on the Streif.
By Daphne Seberich
Beat Feuz is the new Hahnenkamm-race winner of the 20/21 season. But he’s not who has impressed everyone the most during the race. Dominik Paris did.
Stepping on the podium in third place 366 days after the fatal moment for Dominik’s 19/20 season feels like a full-circle moment. At that point in time, Paris was leading the Overall, Downhill and Super G standings; his best season to date. The Streif, although, has no mercy for anyone. The South Tyrolean, who has won three times in Kitzbühel, returned at the Streif seemingly to have what it takes to challenge for a podium.
The Hahnenkamm race is the most dangerous and exhausting Downhill race of the whole FIS Alpine Ski World Cup. Every year the best skiers on earth compete to win the coveted chamois trophy, the symbol of Kitzbühel. You need to have a strong gut to try to ski down the Austrian slope. The start of the race alone, the Mäusefalle, has an 85% steepness. Most competitors fly several meters in the air before reaching the end of that section. Athletes cross the finish line with an average speed of 145 km/h. Only the best can conquer and win Kitzbühel.
A big absentee is reigning Overall champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who got injured in a fall during the Super G training in Hinterreit, Austria. Kilde was taken to a hospital in Innsbruck where it was later confirmed that he tore the ACL of his right knee, bringing his season to an end.
“It is as I feared, but as I did not hope,” Kilde told Norwegian media immediately after the diagnosis. “I am in very good hands and have people with a lot of experience around me, so everything should go well. It’s especially annoying because I’m in the shape of my life, but I will come back strong.
Kilde’s teammate Kjetil Jansrud, who started the race with bib number 1, set the benchmark for Romed Baumann with a time of 1:56.28. The Austrian, now racing for Team Germany, earned a one-second advantage over the Norwegian and beat his past teammate and favorite-to-take-the-win Vincent Kriechmayr as well. Kriechmayr set the fastest time in the second training session.
Beat Feuz blew everyone out of the water with the fastest time of 1:53.77. A blistering run by the Swiss 2018, 2019 and 2020 Downhill champion, who has never won on the Streif.
Andreas Sander’s 95 hundredths of a second delay squeezed him between Feuz and Baumann in second place after six athletes. Soon after, Matthias Mayer took over Sander’s place, closing the gap to the provisional leader to only 16 hundredths.
With bib number 9, Dominik Paris started very strong. He proved to not be afraid of the Streif. With only 56 hundredths of a second of delay against Feuz, the South Tyrolean star secured a spot on the lowest step of the podium. A remarkable finish for Paris. His season’s best result was a fourth-place at one of his favorite Downhill races, Bormio.
Christof Innerhofer is still suffering from the Covid-19 after-effects. His performance on the Streif was not at his usual level, being 3.04 seconds behind leader Feuz, placing provisionally in last place.
American Ryan Cochran-Siegle topped the first training session and showed great speed in the first half of the race. A little mistake turned out to be devastating for Cochran-Siegle. After the last small jump of the slope, the American crashed into the barriers, broke through them and ended outside of the track. The rescue helicopter immediately flew him to the nearest hospital for a physical assessment.
Urs Kryenbühl suffered from a horrific crash at 146 km/h on the last jump towards the finish line. While he was in the air, his weight transferred to the front of his skis, putting him out of balance. Falling face-first onto the snow, Kryenbühl hit the icy slope with his head and continued to roll towards the end zone with his broken skis flying everywhere. He too was immediately flown to the nearest hospital to assess his physical condition.
After the two delays, the weather started to turn for the worse with a southerly wind creating dangerous conditions and creating further setbacks. In the end, once the Top-30 racers were down the hill, everyone was breathing a sigh of relief as the Streif flexed its mighty muscles today.
Friday’s race was a replacement for the canceled Downhill, which should have taken place last weekend in Wengen. The athletes will get a second chance on Sunday to take on the Streif. On Monday, the speed disciplines weekend in Kitzbühel will end with a Super-G race.
Alexis Pinturault’s chances of winning a long-awaited first Overall title for a Frenchman since Luc Alphand in 1997 have increased significantly, thanks to the Norwegian’s abrupt end to his season. The 29-year-old is currently 218 points ahead of Kilde and 277 points ahead of Swiss Marco Odermatt.
Will Paris blow everyone out of the water and win the second race of the Hahnenkamm?