Feuz takes the downhill win in Wengen

14 January 2012 14:00

WENGEN, Switzerland—Beat Feuz left the start house, nimbly negotiating the Hundschopf jump, and mastering the Minschkante air into a high line around Canadian Corner. At each split he was making up more time on the leader, Austria's Hannes Reichelt, and the crowd—38,000 (a new record in Wengen)—screamed in excitement for their countryman. He crossed into the finish area sliding into the fencing, lying down for just a moment to soak it in, and then he stood up to the cheers of the crowd exploding with pride. He knocked Reichelt out of the lead with a time of 2:35.41. None of the remaining 43 racers could top that run.

Teammate Didier Cuche, who followed that performance, sure tried but couldn't get better than 15th. In the finish area, in front of his home crowd, he hung his head in shame. The 2011 Downhill Overall World Cup Champion just can't win at Wengen (he never has).

With bib No. 1, it was Reichelt who initially put down the time to beat through the course of 14 competitors, that is, until Feuz. Though, the Austrian can't complain with second. Last year, Reichelt hadn't qualified to compete at the Lauberhorn downhill, so it was an especially sweet podium for him. “It's a great feeling, it's a dream,” he said. “As a little boy, you dream of being on the podium at a 'classic' like this one.” Today Reichelt got his first career podium at Wengen, and third podium of the season coming in second place with 2:35.75, .44 away from Feuz's extraordinarily fast run. 

Christof Innerhofer finished in third, just .05 seconds from Reichelt. The Italian also was happy to be on a podium this season after sustaining a severe concussion last fall during training. “I was thinking I was going to end the season,” he said. “I've felt demoralized this entire season until now.” It's looking up for him, next he is heading off to Milan to be in a show for Giorgio Armani before next weekend's Kitzbuhel races.

If anyone could top Feuz today, the odds were on Bode Miller (who was just behind Feuz in Friday's super combined downhill). As Miller left the start house, the fans went silent; he was faster in the first split, but lost time through the Kernen-S. Even though he gained some time on Feuz in the flats, in the end he couldn't hold pace. He finished 5th. Switzerland's Carlo Janka, who always does well at Wengen, reaching the podium in 2009-11, just missed it this round by .12 seconds.

For Feuz, the wave of success this weekend—placing second in Friday's super combined and first today—is extra rewarding after spending two and half years dealing with injuries. The 24-year-old from a nearby town called Schangnau, has been working on his technique during his recovery process. It's paid off, according to him. “It was a difficult time but I worked a lot on technique,” he said through a translator. “I think the technique I worked on after the injury is showing and it's a good thing.” Last season he stormed to two podiums in Kvifjell (a first and third place in downhill), and this year he has six podiums—two wins.

Feuz said his secret today was the line choice. “Coming out of the Hanneggschuss, I took a line that was so straight,” he said. “It was probably the tightest that anyone else would have taken. I avoided a lot of bumps today, and that, is probably where I won this.”

And running a downhill race in front of his hometown crowd surely helped. “It's really a dream today,” he said, “and I'm grateful that I can live this—to have won on the longest course on the circuit. It's unbelievable, and to top it, it's in front of my home crowd.”  

Feuz is now in third place in the overall standings with 545 points behind Marcel Hirscher (725) in first and Ivica Kostelic (595) in second.

By Vanessa Pierce

View video with commentary from Reichelt, Innerhofer, and Janka

Click here for the complete downhill results