CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — Hermann Maier. Bode Miller. Vincent Kriechmayr.
A feat previously achieved only by two legends of men’s Alpine skiing was matched by Austrian skier Kriechmayr at the world championships on Sunday.
Kriechmayr added downhill gold to the super-G title he won three days ago to complete the so-called speed double.
Fellow Austrian Maier had done the same in 1999, American standout Miller six years later.
“Hermann Maier is an Austrian legend and Bode Miller is a legend, too. To be on the same step is really amazing,” Kriechmayr said.
“I don’t compare myself to Hermann or Bode Miller, they were also Olympic and World Cup overall champions,” said the Austrian, adding it would take time to sink in.
“I’m rather someone who enjoys this quietly, who reflects on it later.”
By winning the most important downhill of the season, Kriechmayr presented the outgoing president of the Austrian winter sports federation with an ideal gift.
For Peter Schröcksnadel, who is expected to step down in June after 31 years, no races are more important than the downhills at the major championships.
“Downhill gold is what’s the most important in Austria,” Schröcksnadel said.
The race against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks in the Italian Dolomites lived up to its billing as one of the most eye-catching downhills of the season, with spectacular crashes, faltering favorites, a surprise medalist, and the smallest possible winning margin.
Kriechmayr edged Andreas Sander of Germany to the gold by one-hundredth of a second, with 2017 world champion Beat Feuz finishing 0.18 behind for the bronze.
Sander earned the German team its third silver medal at these worlds, after second-place finishes for Romed Baumann in super-G and Kira Weidle in women’s downhill.
“It’s a mega feeling,” Sander said. “We have a great atmosphere in the team after Romed got silver and Kira as well.”
Baumann was in the spotlight again right after he finished Sunday’s race but this time for a nasty fall, sliding skis first into the protective banners and completely disappearing beneath them.
Freed by coaches and officials, he came out with blood on his face and race suit.
German ski federation sports director Wolfgang Maier said Baumann sustained a cut on his face but escaped serious injuries.
In another frightening incident, Maxence Muzaton avoided a serious crash when he caught a bump and fell head-first after losing control over his right ski at 120 kph (75 mph).
The Frenchman used an acrobatic recovery as he turned around and got upright while skiing backwards before coming to a standstill.
Kriechmayr avoided similarly spectacular scenes when he opened the race and found the quickest way through a passage that included — untypically for a downhill — six sharp turns.
Sander started second and soon lost three-tenths on Kriechmayr but the German racer was faster on the bottom part.
Only one of the remaining 40 starters came even close to the leading pair but Feuz ultimately trailed by 0.18 for bronze.
The rest of the field, led by Italian home favorite Dominik Paris and Swiss skier Marco Odermatt who shared fourth position, was at least 0.65 off the lead.
Tied for 10th, Bryce Bennett led the American team — followed by Travis Ganong in 12th.
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the overall World Cup champion, is out for the season with a knee injury.
The turning section that decided the race had been sharply criticized by many racers after the first official training session on Friday.
Organizers reset those gates to make the course slightly more fluent, but many downhillers still struggled.
It didn’t matter to Kriechmayr, though.
“It’s a lot of turns but Kitzbühel and Wengen also have such turns that usually nobody would set for a downhill,” he added. “It’s not a typical downhill, but it doesn’t matter to me on what course I win.”
The race was interrupted when Florian Schieder was thrown off the bumpy course midway through his run.
The Italian was hospitalized with a suspected rupture of his left knee ligaments.
The worlds continue Monday with the combined events for both women and men.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this report.
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