It was another beautiful day in Cortina d’Ampezzo, with cold temperatures setting up the snow overnight on the new Vertigine downhill, gearing up the men’s speeds. The downhill course had initially caused controversy at the beginning of the week, with the downhillers displeased with the overly turny nature of the set and lack of jumps and air time. But after the athletes gave their feedback to the organizing committee and FIS, the course was adjusted to a good place for the men and it ran nicely for Sunday's race.
Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria, who won the World Champs super-G race earlier in the week, took the downhill victory to become the first man to sweep the World Champs speed events since Bode Miller did in 2005. Andreas Sander of Germany was only .01 seconds behind him for the silver medal and Beat Feuz of Switzerland, who won the 2017 World Championships gold in downhill, was bronze.
With the victory Kriechmayr joins a elite group of three men who have pulled off the double speed victory at the World Championship alongside Hermann Maier and Bode Miller. The win also ended an 18-year gold medal drought for the Austrians in the men’s downhill.
“I think it will take a few weeks to really process everything that’s happened in the last few days,” said Kriechmayr after the race. “I’m definitely happy, but it will need to sink in for me to believe it.”
The victory couldn’t have been any closer for the Austrian than edging German Andreas Sander by the slimmest of margins 0.01 seconds. The gold and silver medalists were also the first two racers down the course. It was the first career World Championship medal for the German, who was a relative surprise to make the podium. It also added to Germany’s unlikely tally of three medals at these World Championships thus far.
Third place was also hotly contested as Beat Feuz finished just 0.18 off the winning pace, picking up his third career downhill gold medal.
After the top-three the gap widened between the medalists and the rest of the field. For many, the main difference came at the hands of the Vertigine jump, which proved for many to be the difference between a top-ten finish or not.
For the Americans
Bryce Bennett had one of his best results of the 2020-21 season, scoring a top-10 finish in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships downhill in 10th place. Travis Ganong was just behind him in 12th.
Bennett was pleased with his result, especially given an inconsistent 2020-21 season that has included a string of downhill World Cup results finishing in the middle of the pack. He had one shining result—a fourth place in Val Gardena, a favorite venue of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team men—which showed potential similar to the previous season when he was regularly securing top-15 and top-10 results. Sunday’s World Championships downhill was a shift back to old form, triggered by equipment changes and a rediscovered confidence.
“I’m pretty fired up,” said Bennett. “We made some equipment changes and it really showed on the second training run. I tried to give it everything I could today.”
Bryce did get caught up in the wind, which slowed the 6’7” racer down, but Bennett was happy with the overall result. “You always want to go faster, but I’ve been having a pretty bad year, so it’s nice to show some signs of potential,” he said. “You have to ski it very precisely and also there’s some wind going on up top, so it all depends.”
Ganong finished just .14 seconds behind Bennett in 12th. Rounding out the Americans, Jared Goldberg secured a top-20 finish, in 20th.
Notably missing for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team were Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who snagged speed event podiums all season long before minorly fracturing his neck in Kitzbuehel, and Steven Nyman, who has sat out the season due to an Achilles tendon injury.
Once again, Cortina offered up optimal conditions today, as the weather problems at the start of the week were long forgotten with blue, crisp skies providing the perfect backdrop for the downhill.