An exciting weekend ahead for Beat Feuz
The third and last training session on the Olympic downhill course for the 2014 Games took place in good weather conditions and allowed many racers to improve their level of performance on the treacherous and long Rosa Khutor run mostly covered with icy snow. This time, the fastest racers managed to ski through all the gates and clocked credible best times. The fastest man of the day was the Austrian super-G World Cup specialist Georg Streitberger who set a new best time of two minutes 13.95 seconds, 1/100 of a second faster than Switzerland’s Beat Feuz while Austria’s Joachim Puchner was third 63/100 behind.
Didier Cuche was 7th at 1.10 seconds behind and Erik Guay of Canada 9th at 1.14 seconds behind. Bode Miller and Klaus Kroell finished further in 22nd and 34th places while other specialists such as Italy’s Christof Innerhofer, his teammate Dominique Paris or Canada’s Jan Hudec preferred to skip the training run to rest and relax in their hotel room.
A few skiers crashed on their way down such as France’s Brice Rogers who had to be carried down by the rescue team and transported to the local hospital for further examination.
A big battle for Feuz
For one skier the coming weekend will be particularly tense and exciting – Lauberhorn winner Beat Feuz, who sits in 3rd place in the downhill World Cup standings and in 2nd position in the combined rankings. His gap of 105 points on leader Didier Cuche in the speed event allows him to remain relaxed and ready for another aggressive run on Saturday. On Sunday too he’ll be able to take great risks in the downhill leg to have a serious chance to challenge combined leader Ivica Kostelic, who only preserved a small margin of 16 points on him after the last combined event at Chamonix.
“It’s pretty exciting to be in that position, I never dreamed about something like this before the start of the season, it’s really amazing,” explained the young Swiss after finishing the last combined at Chamonix a solid 3rd behind Austria’s Romed Baumann and France’s Alexis Pinturault. “I have achieved way more than I expected so far.”
Beat’s 2nd position in the third and last training run was surprising too as he normally doesn’t push his limits too hard during timed trials. “I guess that I got used to the conditions today, the upper part of this run is really demanding,” he commented afterwards. “It’s good for the confidence even though the conditions can be totally different tomorrow, we’ll see; there is no reason for me to be nervous. I just hope to have fun cruising down that nice run as fast as possible,” added the Swiss who is celebrating his 25th birthday on Saturday. ”Then I hope to keep some energy for Sunday’s battle. It would be wonderful to have a chance to fight for the globe at the start of the slalom.”
Even though he mostly excels in the speed events, winning the super-G at Val Gardena in front of established specialists including Bode Miller or Aksel Lund Svindal before dominating all his colleagues on the Lauberhorn course at Wengen last month, Feuz has also proved at several occasions his aptitude to ski fast in the tech events. A three-time junior world champion in 2007 in downhill, super-G and combined, Beat Feuz clinched bronze in slalom both in 2007 at Flachau and in 2005 at Bardonecchia.
Three combined podiums for Beat Feuz in 2012
This season, he also scored points in giant slalom and his excellent slalom skills allowed him to reach the podium in all three combined events this winter.
Interestingly enough, the bullish yet charming Feuz didn’t grow up in a major ski resort. His region – Emmental which is situated south-east of Berne – has been better known for its tasty cheese famous for its holes and its superb brown bullish cows which spend most of their life outside the barns on the peaceful and vast pastures owned by the local farmers in the hilly area.
The pleasant village of Schangnau of nearly a thousand inhabitants is a well-kept-secret for tourists and local skiers. Over the weekend, there are seldom more than 500 visitors on-site who enjoy using the two small ‘Roeseggli’ skilifts which bring them up to the top of the hill at an ‘elevation’ 1,365 meters. From there they can smoothly cruise down several slopes leading back to the village which is situated at 920 meters.
The talented Feuz, who scored a promising 14th place in his very first World Cup downhill at Lenzerheide at the Finals in March 2007 was expected to bloom much earlier. Unfortunately for him, two major knee injuries in a row in September 2007 and November 2008 - while training at Lake Louise - put him out of contention for two long seasons. After a slow comeback during the 2009/10 season marked by rather modest 12th place in the combined event at Wengen, he started to slowly move up in the rankings the following season, finishing a happy 7th in the downhill at Chamonix and a remarkable 9th at the FIS Worlds at Garmisch-Partenkirchen despite skiing with a higher number on already damaged course.
Then Beat suddenly raised his level and started fighting for victories in March 2011, finishing 1st and 3rd at Kvitfjell in downhill and 18th in the super-G. Earlier this season, he claimed three podiums in a row at Lake Louise and Beaver Creek prior his remarkable triumph at Val Gardena. Many experts including former Olympic champion Bernhard Russi consider him now as one of the most accomplished speed specialists in recent seasons.
This weekend he may well reach another level of excellence – and enjoy even more success less than a year after his maiden victory in Norway.
To get a feel for what's it like in Emmental where Beat hails from check out this clip.