A great birthday party for Beat Feuz
The dress rehearsal for the Sochi 2014 Olympic downhill course in Rosa Khutor, Krasnaya Polyana, showed that the new course is undoubtedly worthy of the Games and determining the Olympic champion in two years' time. Today’s fastest on the long and icy piste with both tight and long curves and four superb jumps was the birthday boy Beat Feuz who turned 25th today in Sochi.
With especially impressive mastery of the bottom part, Feuz left his closest challenger Canada’s Ben Thomsen 0.27 seconds behind. After his 11th place finish in the first of the two Chamonix downhills, and then an excellent 5th place with bib number 50 in the second, Thomsen has worked his way up to the top, scoring his first World Cup podium today.
Adrien Theaux of France took third, 0.59 sec behind. For Theaux already 3rd in a super-G in Lake Louise early in the season, it was his only third career World Cup podium after taking 3rd in Kitzbühel downhill last season and winning the downhill at the World Cup finals 2011 in Lenzerheide. It was a pretty sweet revenge for him after the cancellation of the downhill race at Val Gardena because of strong gusts of wind as he was in the lead along with his teammate Johann Clarey.
American Bode Milller, fastest on the extreme top part of the Rosa Khutor piste, faltered in the faster bottom section to miss out on the top-3 by mere 0.02. He finished ahead of the 2010 overall World Cup champion Carlo Janka who became an encouraging 5th. Today’s men’s downhill represented the historical first Audi FIS Ski World Cup competition in Russia, which became the 24th country to stage a FIS Ski World Cup event. In the past years, Russia staged two promotional ‘City Events’ at Moscow yet no World Cup points were awarded at those parallel slaloms. It will not be the case in ten days when the Russian capital is again welcoming some of the best racers on the tour.
9th podium for Feuz
Completing his rapid rise to the esteemed circle of the season’s best World Cup downhill racers, Feuz’s win marked his 9th season podium (3rd season victory and 4th overall) and he is now ranked third in the downhill World Cup standings, 27 points behind teammate Didier Cuche, only 12th today. The Swiss veteran will have to fight hard to clinch his 5th downhill globe. Another rival of Cuche, Klaus Kroell (AUT), was 8th today. Feuz now sits 2nd in the overall World Cup standings not too far behind Ivica Kostelic.
Winner of the Lauberhorn classic in Wengen last month, the Swiss confirmed he is one of the very best speed specialists this winter, dominating his rivals to win in a time of two minutes and 14.10 seconds.
Feuz, who also won a super-G in Val Gardena in December, beat up-and-coming Canadian Benjamin Thomsen by just 0.27 seconds in second.
"It's a great story to win on my birthday and then being congratulated by President Medvedev at the awards ceremony. It has been pretty impressive. I didn't expect as much today. I didn't overdo it at the top where I never skied so well these past days to save energy for the finale," Feuz, hampered in recent weeks by toothache hetold the press after his run. "After Wengen, I struggled a bit but it's great to be back in contention for all these titles. It's a great motivation for the end of the season."
A world junior gold medalist in three different events in 2007 in Austria, Feuz, defined as "a phenomenal talent" by compatriot Bernhard Russi, who designed the Sochi course, is coming of age at the right time. "Of course I hope to be here in two years but I will first need to qualify within the Swiss team, which is very strong," he said. "I hope to have saved some energy for tomorrow. it will be tough to cruise down this demanding course a fifth time in the morning. Of course I have nothing to lose, so I’m already happy that some of my rivals are getting nervous now. " Feuz, who is skipping the next tech events planned the coming weekend at Bansko, Bulgaria, is now planning to enter the parallel slalom at Moscow in ten days to defend his chance for a podium finish in the overall classification.
Benjamin Thomson is now a ‘Canadian Cowboy’!
Fifth and 11th last weekend in Chamonix, Thomsen, 24, earned the first podium spot of his World Cup career and emerged like Feuz as a possible contender at the Games in two years' time.
"It's a dream. The World Cup has always been my passion as my dad is a ski coach," said the Canadian, who was only allowed to race in Russia thanks to his fine performance in France a week ago. Thomsen also earned the right to sport the belt of the ‘Canadian Cowboys’, reserved to skiers with a podium placing in the World Cup or major championships. All three members of the Canadian speed team racing this year in downhill reached at least one podium in the past two weeks.
The Rosa Khutor course already proved to be one of the toughest on the men's circuit, combining technique and speed, a gruelling vertical drop as well as some of the longest jumps in the World Cup. "It's super tough physically. It's like Bormio, only longer," 3rd placed Adrien Theaux said. "It's also a little tight for our taste in the upper part, but they promised to change that for the Games. In any case, these are great facilities. I don't know how they did it in only two years but they did a great job," the happy Frenchman added.
A super combined is scheduled to be held on the same course on Sunday. World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic, only 29th today, will face a tough challenge against Feuz, only 16 points adrift in the intermediate standings. “It will not be easy, the downhill course is pretty long and the slalom run is shorter than normal,” the defending overall World Cup champion explained after his run. “I’ll do my best, but Beat seems to be on a roll.” After clinching the two first combined events at Wengen and Kitzbühel thanks to impressive slalom legs, Ivica finished far from the podium at Chamonix last week. He’ll try to lose less than two seconds on the winner of the downhill leg tomorrow morning – normally Beat Feuz. But Romed Baumann, the winner at Chamonix or Adrien Théaux will also fight hard for a podium finish.