ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — It would have been hard to imagine a more ideal day for a ski race on Monday as the men took on the World Championship alpine combined in St. Moritz. Sunshine and warm weather arrived after a fog-plagued few days of speed and provided a breathtaking backdrop for the third men’s race of the championships. The Swiss faithful were once again treated to a home gold medal as Luca Aerni powered his way to the win with a combined time of 2:26.33 seconds. Defending World Champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria was the slimmest possible margin behind, 0.01 seconds, for the silver. Aerni’s compatriot Mauro Caviezel landed in third, 0.06 seconds off the pace.
The morning’s downhill run saw Austrian Romed Baumann set the pace with Aerni and Hirscher sitting 2.61 and 2.30 seconds back in 30th and 28th, respectively. Temperatures warmed before the slalom portion and allowed Aerni to take advantage of being the first racer on course and hold the lead for the remainder of the race and walk away with his first World Championship title. Hirscher actually led Aerni at the final interval by 0.44 seconds, but Aerni managed to squeak past the Austrian superstar thanks to an impressive final section. Caviezel also surprised many with his slalom skills in the deteriorating conditions, clocking the third-fastest time on the run and giving the Swiss their sixth medal of the championships.
It was a nerve-wracking wait for Aerni after his downhill run as many racers from the back of the pack were bumping out slalom skier after slalom skier from the flip-30. The 23-year-old Swiss admitted that if one more racer came down and bested his downhill time, there would have been no chance for him to medal, much less win.
“It’s amazing,” Aerni said after the race. “I didn’t expect this this morning, so I am very happy. I think if I started thirty-one, I have no chance, so I was waiting a lot after the downhill to really know that I can start first.”
Although Hirscher had to settle for second place for the tenth time this season, the living legend was happy with a silver medal after battling through a couple days of sickness.
“After two days lying in bed, it is pretty impressive to myself that I am on the podium in this super combined,” he said. “And for sure, downhill was a very big challenge for a slalom skier, but on the other hand it was a lot of fun to do these jumps, to improve yourself, to learn a little more about downhill, and many of you know, this was already my tenth second place so far this season and always very close decisions, so it was a little bit nerve-wracking if you see crossing the finish line one hundredth of a second behind. And I exactly knew the conditions will play in our hands because the conditions were really soft already with the first number, so we knew it can be our day.”
Caviezel even surprised himself with his performance, especially in the slalom portion, since he knew that many very good slalom skiers were running before him in the second run.
“It feels very good,” the Swiss athlete said. “I couldn’t expect it after the downhill, so I’m just glad and really, really happy today. The difficult thing was the slalom because of the conditions and I’m not a slalom specialist. I knew that I had to go all in and now I’m really happy that it happened.”
It was a step in the right direction for the Americans as Bryce Bennett led the pack in 11th with two solid performances in the downhill and slalom portions. Brennan Rubie followed in 15th as Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Jared Goldberg finished in 19th and 21st, respectively.
“For me, personally, I think I could have closed the gap a little bit more in downhill,” explained Bennett. “Next time, when a situation like this arises, I can figure it out. In the slalom, they tried to inject last night, which was a questionable call because it didn’t settle deep enough so there was a thin layer of ice and it chunked through.”
Rubie was just happy to be a part of the experience.
“Since I’m not a downhill skier or a slalom skier, I don’t think I have a lot of perspective on exactly what was what,” admitted Rubie. “I was happy to get down to the finish in both runs and had a lot of fun.”
The team event is next on the schedule in St. Mortiz for Tuesday, Feb. 14.
1. Luca Aerni (SUI) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Mauro Caviezel (SUI) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Dominik Paris (ITA) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
4. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6. Justin Murisier (SUI) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
7. Carlo Janka (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Vincent Kreichmayr (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
9. Adrien Theaux (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
10. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|4||15||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:40.63||46.10||2:26.73||+0.40||3.14|
|31||38||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||1:40.99||50.11||2:31.10||+4.77||37.49|
|35||51||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG||1:43.50||48.96||2:32.46||+6.13||48.18|
|44||48||110383||VON APPEN Sven||1997||CHI||1:45.58||52.33||2:37.91||+11.58||91.01|
|Did not start 2nd run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|59||460071||ACHIRILOAIE Ioan Valeriu||1990||ROU|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|