GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Feb. 12 – Ski Racing Magazine News Service) – Erik Guay is the World Champion. Once again Canada has taken the Worlds downhill title from under the noses of the Europeans. In 2009 it was John Kucera winning a difficult test at Val d’Isere. This time it was Guay with an early run down a decidedly changed Garmisch-Partenkirchen race course who stole the worlds most prestigious ski racing title.
Didier Cuche, a favorite in many eyes, was second. Christof Innerhofer had earned favored status with the super G gold medal three days ago and a courageous first in training run one. He finished third for the bronze medal.
Romed Baumann, in fourth, was more than a second off the winning time.
The Kandahar 2 course had changed dramatically since Innerhofer’s medal or his first training run win when an rough, icy surface had drawn abundant criticism and had skiers thinking more about survival than finding speed. On a softened course in Friday’s training racers had a better opportunity to seek speed and today (Feb. 12) in the World Championship, the course invited attack. … but only for a short while. Then the track began to melt from the bottom to the top making it almost impossible to challenge the leaders.
In his last four World Cups Guay had finished third-first-third-first, the last time in SG to clinch that World Cup title. In training he had been seventh and fourth in the treacherous super G he had failed to finish. He said he had looked forward to the downhill to show what he could do at Garmisch.
As questioners ran down the list of his last Cup finishes, he deadpanned, “Yeah, this is a good place for me.”
Althoughh the first group of skiers switched out leaders (Canadian Benjamin Thomsen, birthday boy Steven Nyman and Swiss Ambrosi Hoffmann knocked one another off the top of the podium in subsequent runs) when Innerhofer came down he took the lead by 1.18 seconds, an indicator the first seeded group (starting from 8 to 16 under the current format) was going to take control. He was immediately followed by Guay’s brilliant run and then there was a wait of eight skiers before Cuche got his chance. In that time, Cuche said, the course deteriorated considerably.
The old Swiss was his usual stellar self, solid and compact, charging and concise. He was faster than Guay at the second and third interval timers, but just before the finish, at the last of 44 gates on the track was a slight bobble, a heartbeat of trouble that pulled his shoulder out of his tuck. He finished .32 back and Guay could not contain a shout and fist pump from the leaders box.
“Thr first 40 seconds were very compact,” said Cuche, “but it wasn’t icy anywhere on course and where it was flat it was quite soft. There were so many tracks you had to ride over. … I think everybody saw that the snow started to melt, there were more tracks and that made it more difficult.”
No others could approach Guay’s time. Romed Baumann – running two starters after Cuche – got fourth 1.10 seconds out. Although Swiss Beat Feuz got ninth from the 29th start the rest of the top 10 was already cemented in place, and he took a significantly different line than most. The Kandahar grew slower for those starting late.
Among those was Bode Miller, in bib 22. He appeared unable to generate speed at any point on course and finished a respectable 15th, but no where near any spot that counted for anything. Nyman, in 13th, led the Americans.
“I tipped over on my hip at the very top, but I don’t think that cost me all that much,” said Miller. “I made a great recovery and then gassed it from there down. I’m happy with the way I skied. I was pushing the line and cutting off the line almost every section of the course. My legs had good power, I felt strong all the way to the finish and I was concerned about that because it has been so bumpy. It’s disappointing, but some days in ski racing there’s just not much else you can do.”
Travis Ganong apparently broke his hand hitting a gate high on the course and finished 24th.
“I think it’s kind of broken,” he said of his left hand packed in ice. “It hurts.”
He said he smacked the hand against the base of a gate about 30 seconds into the course. It hurt immediately and he said that was distracting at best.
“I can’t bend my finger. It hurt immediately. I could only hold my pole with two fingers it was so painful. I tried to cut inside all the bumps. … Ultimately I was really hurting and I was distracted.”