Austrian skier Kriechmayr wins downhill race in Kitzbuehel

KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — Vincent Kriechmayr won Austria’s most storied World Cup race Friday to give the ski-mad nation a reason to celebrate in its otherwise disappointing season so far.

Kriechmayr won the first of two downhills on the classic Streif course and remained the only Austrian skier, male or female, to win a World Cup event this campaign.

“The Streif is a myth, a legend. For an Austrian downhiller the most important race,” said Kriechmayr, who also won two downhills in Italy in December. “To win in Kitzbuehel, it’s just amazing. It’s the most important World Cup race of the season. I tried, I tried everything. I pushed. It was not a perfect run but it was totally on the limit.”

Kriechmayr mastered the demanding course in cloudy conditions as the world champion sped to his 15th career victory, while co-favorites Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Marco Odermatt only narrowly avoided high-speed crashes.

Odermatt, the overall World Cup leader, hurt his left knee in the incident and will sit out the second downhill on Saturday while undergoing further tests, the Swiss ski team said.

Odermatt lost grip about 25 seconds into his run. The defending overall champion regained balance with his right ski high up in the air but almost crashed into the safety netting. He avoided risks for the remainder of his run and finished more than three seconds behind and outside the World Cup points.

Kriechmayr, the only skier not from Norway or Switzerland to win a men’s World Cup race this season, became the third Austrian in the last 15 years to win the Kitzbuehel race, after Hannes Reichelt triumphed in 2014 and Matthias Mayer six years later.

“I have been really fighting. If you look at the results from previous years, I was not the favorite,” Kriechmayr said. “But I wanted to do things better this time. I took a lot of risks. I was not without mistakes but the risks paid off.”

As skies over the middle of the course cleared during the race, several late starters benefited from improved visibility.

Wearing bib No. 43, Florian Schieder posted the fastest times in the middle section and finished 0.23 seconds behind Kriechmayr in second for the Italian’s first career podium.

“The light had certainly improved, but I used it well,” said Schieder, whose previous best in a World Cup race was 13th. “I didn’t make any big mistakes. It’s a dream for a downhill skier to get on the podium in Kitzbuehel. A dream come true.”

Swiss skier Niels Hintermann finished 0.31 behind in third, and Jared Goldberg came 0.35 back in fourth for the American’s career-best World Cup result.

Kilde, who leads the World Cup downhill standings after winning four of the previous six races this season, finished 0.97 off the pace in 16th.

The Norwegian lost time on Kriechmayr early but gained on the Austrian at every following split. He then seemed to risk too much in the bend approaching the finish stretch. He leaned backward and came off the course, but regained control just before hitting a commercial banner.

“That was close, really close. Almost too close,” Kilde said. “It really happened so quick. When I landed, I collapsed a little bit, and everything happens so fast. It’s Kitzbuehel, it’s how it is.”

Kilde skied with his right hand bandaged after fracturing a bone when he hit the icy surface during his final training run Thursday.

Goldberg’s American teammate, Travis Ganong, had bib No. 1 and his leading time stood for eight racers. Ganong finished 0.46 behind Kriechmayr in seventh and later said he planned to retire after the season.

“I’m pretty ready to start doing some new things,” Ganong said. ”It’s been 18 years on the U.S. team. I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’ve been among the best for a long time.”

The race was interrupted for 20 minutes after Henrik Roea crashed while crossing the finish going at 140 kph (87 mph). The Norwegian was taken to the hospital by helicopter with an apparent knee injury.

Another downhill is scheduled for Saturday.

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