With his win, Kriechmayr became the third man, after Hermann Maier in 1999 and Bode Miller in 2005 to do the speed double in the same year at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Photo credits: Paudal, Olympic Channel , Alchetron & Corriere Della Sera
By Daphne Seberich
Vincent Kriechmayr was unbeatable on the brand-new Vertigine race piste in Cortina d’Ampezzo winning downhill gold at the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, completing the speed double.
Having won the Super G event, the Austrian came into the race full of confidence. He picked bib number one, becoming the first man to race a downhill on the Vertigine in competition, and dominated in clear conditions with hard, grippy snow.
With last year’s World Cup Finals (which should have served as a test event for the piste) canceled, the field only had two training runs earlier this week to get used to the 2610m-long course, with its average slope of 31 percent.
Kriechmayr, who won downhill bronze at the last World Championships in Åre, skied a clean line and was only nearly caught out by a tricky control gate on the Canalone traverse section of the course.
The 29-year-old crossed the line in one minute, 37.79 seconds – just one-hundredth of a second, or an advantage of just 27 cm, ahead of silver medalist Andreas Sander of Germany, who wore bib number two.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, winner of the double downhills in Kitzbühel last month, was third, 0.18 seconds behind Kriechmayr.
The Cortina Super G gold medal winner Vincent Kriechmayr started the competition, setting the bar for the other competitors with a time of 1:37.79. It was a tough battle between the provisional leader and Andreas Sander’s time. With bib number two, the German crossed the finish line only one-hundredth of a second behind Kriechmayr.
Fan-favorite and Garmisch-Partenkirchen Downhill winner Dominik Paris, who topped the second training session on Saturday, seemed to have what it takes to beat Vincent Kriechmayr’s time. Unfortunately, a mistake in the crucial part of the slope determined Paris’s fate. He recovered a 1.24-second delay from the middle part of the piste to cross the finish line 65 hundredths behind the provisional leader.
Kitzbühel podium holder Matthias Mayer was one of the favorites to take the win. His physical shape, as seen on the Streif, is remarkable. He came to Cortina prepared in the best way possible. At the Canalone traverse, Mayer missed a gate, finishing prematurely his run.
Beat Feuz, who came to Cortina with two wins in Kitzbühel and a second place at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was set to earn a medal in the discipline. He also was crowned Downhill World Champion at Sankt Moritz 2017. Feuz managed to dethrone Paris from third place, falling behind Austrian Kriechmayr only 18 hundredths of a second.
Bib number 8 holder Maxence Muzaton had a scary encounter with the slope. It seemed like he was doing freestyle skiing with downhill skis. Luckily, he didn’t suffer from any injury.
As the racers descended the slope, it was getting clear that beating Kriechmayr’s time was gonna be a tough challenge. With bib number 13, Romed Baumann was a real challenger for a podium position. The intermediates in the first half of the slope talked clear: he was close to Kriechmayr. Where Paris had his mistake, Baumann failed as well, crossing the finish line in ninth place. A finish-line scare involved him as well, crashing into the air fence in the end area. Fortunately, he left the track with only minor cuts on his face.
The Vertigine slope has not aided Christof Innerhofer to win on home soil. The 2011 Downhill World Championship bronze medalist missed out on a top-three finish, placing just behind his teammate Dominik Paris in fifth place.
Reigning Downhill World Champion Kjetil Jansrud misinterpreted the slope, but still had his season’s best result, placing seventh. He couldn’t defend his title. Marco Odermatt set a surprisingly good time, equaling Dominik Paris in fourth place. The technical slalom discipline specialist blew it out of the park by interpreting the slope in the best way possible. His bib number, which was 18, didn’t seem to penalize him.
Vincent Kriechmayr wins back-to-back gold medals in Cortina, equaling a record that only legends of the sport managed to do. Andreas Sander barely missed out on the top spot of the podium, but can still consider himself happy with silver. He scores a third medal for Germany, the second one in the Downhill discipline after Kira Weidle’s podium on Saturday. Feuz in third was no surprise. The Swiss scored his third World Championship medal, his second bronze.
With his win, Kriechmayr became the first Austrian Men’s Downhill World Champion in 18 years since Michael Walchhofer accomplished it in 2003. He also became just the third man, after Hermann Maier in 1999 and Bode Miller in 2005 to do the speed double in the same year.
“Hermann Maier is an Austrian legend and Bode Miller is a legend too, of course,” Kriechmayr told FIS after his run. “It was a really special race today, with bib number one it wasn’t so easy and it looks like it was good enough for the victory today. An amazing race.”
Speaking to Eurosport, he added: “It’s pretty amazing, it was a difficult race. It was not perfect, I lost a lot of time on the last part of the race but I was pretty fast on the middle part. It was good enough, and that’s it. Yes, of course I had my medal, I already had a medal and I wanted to show my best today. I always was a fan of these two guys but to be on the same step as them is amazing,” he said of comparisons to Maier and Miller.
Silver medallist Sander, who continued Germany’s run of silver medals at the Championships, told Eurosport: “Just one-hundredth, I saw it and I was like ‘uh-oh, that could be… hopefully it’s not for a medal. I saw the time, it was really fast, 1:37, and then I thought maybe it was a good one. I was feeling good, I was really in shape and felt good. I felt like maybe I could do it and cause a surprise. I felt it at the start. In the end, super happy.”
The competitions will continue at the Italian venue until the 21st of February where the athletes will do everything they can to score a medal. Can someone equal Kriechmayr’s achievement by winning the technical discipline’s double gold medal?