Three-time Hahnenkamm downhill champion, Italy’s Dominik Paris, proved to the world that he is no slouch in super-G, either, after capturing his first World Championship title on Wednesday in Are, Sweden. The big 29-year-old Italian navigated a tricky course with less-than-ideal visibility to win his first major championship gold medal.
Due to bad weather in Central Europe in the days leading up to the opening of the World Championships in Are, many racers and their equipment arrived to Sweden late, forcing the cancellation of the first downhill training run on Tuesday. With only a brief free-ski session under their belts, the men of the speed Tour took to the Are super-G not knowing quite what to expect from the notoriously tricky, terrain-filled slope. Wednesday’s race was made even tougher with overcast skies casting flat light throughout the length of the course, further toying with racers’ confidence. In total, 21 racers did not finish Wednesday’s super-G.
Paris kicked out of the start with bib three and skied on the edge for the duration of his run, even coming close to skiing out mere gates from the finish, before crossing the line with a full second lead over then-leader, Switzerland’s Beat Feuz. One by one the rest of the field mounted challenges to Paris’ time, with Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr and France’s Johan Clarey both looking like they could steal the gold away from the Italian before crossing the line in a miraculous tie for second place, only 0.09 seconds off the winning pace.
“I saw Beat on the TV and watched him to check out how the course is,” Paris explained after the race. “I saw he had problems with the line and the flat light and I didn’t know what my time would mean coming down to the bottom because I had a mistake just before the finish. I was not really happy with this run because I knew that all the good racers were still at the top. At the end, I was the lucky one.”
Known more for his raw speed and talent in downhill when conditions are at the extremes of icy and bumpy, the softer, more reactive snow in Are does not traditionally suit Paris when you look at his track record of success on the World Cup.
“It feels great,” he continued. “It’s a very special day for me. I didn’t expect I can win today in such an important race of the season. It was very tough, fast, and the conditions were not what I like. I like icy and bumpy but I had a great feeling skiing down and I am very happy. It was very tough today. One of the toughest races, super-G, with flat light, it’s so hard to push on the limit. With the flat light you can’t see the bumps that are between the gates and you didn’t know if it’s there or not. You had to feel it with your feet if a bump was coming or not.”
Clarey, at 38-years-old, managed to set the new record for oldest World Championship medalist. Prior to last month in Kitzbuehel, where he also placed second, the French veteran had never set foot on a World Cup super-G podium. Clarey held the lead on the upper section of the course but could not quite match Paris on the final turns before slipping back to second.
“I think this year was my biggest chance [to win a medal], for sure,” he said. “I’ve skied very well from all the season but, for sure, super-G was unexpected for me. At the beginning of the season I was starting with like, bib 55 I think and everything has gone faster and faster for me. This year I thought that maybe I can do a medal but that was just a dream and now it’s a dream come true. Better later than never!”
Austria’s Kriechmayr has been on the edge of greatness for the past several seasons and his run on Wednesday looked like the 27-year-old could be on his way to World Championship gold before an untimely low line put those hopes in jeopardy. Kriechmayr was near-untouchable on the upper and middle sections of the course before a mistake saw him drop nearly a half-second back at the final split. The Austrian managed to claw back all but 0.09 seconds of his deficit in the final turns approaching the finish.
“It was a really tough race,” Kriechmayer told the media. “Of course, the visibility was low, the course, all in all a really tough race but I’m really proud about my result. I won the silver medal, I did not lose the gold medal. I was a little disappointed, of course, because I made two little mistakes but it was really tough and everybody made mistakes. In the World Championships, it’s only important to be on the podium so I was a little bit nervous in the finish.”
The American contingent was led by veteran and team captain, Steven Nyman. After a hard crash in Wengen, Switzerland, last month left him with concussion symptoms, the tall Utahn elected to skip the last two race series before Are to better prepare for World Championships. That decision paid off as Nyman finished in a three-way tie for eighth place with Norway’s Adrien Smiseth Sejersted and Italy’s Mattia Casse, only 0.50 seconds off the pace. Nyman’s eighth place was his career-best finish in super-G in World Cup, World Championship, or Olympic competition.
“I skied quite well up top and did what I needed to do and I had an advantage with better light,” he explained in the finish. “I came in too direct on the halfpipe turn and had to throw them sideways and lost a lot of speed on that flat right there which is super disappointing. Other than that, I executed quite well and I’m happy, this is actually my second top 10 ever in super-G. I’ve been feeling really rusty since Wengen and hitting my head and going through the concussion protocol. My body just hasn’t felt that great but when I got on this snow and I started, I was like, ‘Wow, this feels awesome!’ The snow reacts well and I just started going with it.”
Closely following Nyman in 11th place was Vermonter Ryan Cochran-Siegle, 0.53 seconds back for his career-best super-G finish in elite international competition as well. Bryce Bennett rounded out the American finishers in 23rd place. Travis Ganong missed a gate on the upper section of the course and did not finish.
The men will now race downhill in Are on February 9th.
1. Dominik Paris (ITA)- Nordica/Nordica/Marker
2. Johan Clarey (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
3. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
4. Christof Innerhofer (ITA)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
5. Adrien Theaux (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
6. Josef Ferstl (GER)- Head/Head/Head
7. Brice Roger (FRA)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Mattia Casse (ITA)- Head/Head/Head
8. Steven Nyman (USA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
8. Adrien Smiseth Sejersted (NOR)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
For complete FIS results, please click here.