Reichelt is best in second downhill training run in Wengen

12 January 2012 13:44

WENGEN, Switzerland—Austria's Hannes Reichelt was fastest here today with a time of 2:37.46 on a course that was firmer and faster than Wednesday, according to the athletes. Today also saw the first crashes of the downhill training runs when Switzerland's Didier Defago and U.S.'s Andrew Weibrecht took nearly identical spills coming off the Minschkante jump. 

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindel, though under the weather with a flu, skied to second place .16 seconds behind Reichelt, and Switzerland's Carlo Janka was third (.31 back). They had started one after the other in bib numbers 4 (Reichelt), 5 (Svindel), and 6 (Janka). No one could catch them through the couse of the training run. Italy's Peter Fill, who was fastest Wednesday, ended up 19th. Switzerland's Didier Cuche, 2nd yesterday, had opted to try the skis he had won on in Kitzbuhel, but he said the edges weren't right, and felt "off" througout the race; 3rd from yesterday's race, Italy's Christof Innhofer finished 7th. 

Janka's teammate Didier Defago, who started 17, was the first casualty of the 2012 Lauberhorn sliding into the netting after the Minschkante when his skis popped off upon impact. He, however, was able to ski down. "I'm OK," he said, "just took a bit of a 'touch' on my leg."

Defago is in good spirits but had hoped to ski that "passage" well along with the difficult and narrow Kernen-S (Bruggli-S) beyond that, but says, "My confidence is OK," going into Friday's super combined and isn't worried about the bruise he sustained in the crash. Olympic bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht went down in nearly the same manner but is also OK, just a sore neck, he said.  

The racers agreed the course was skiing much better than Wednesday, as the training run the day before, along with low temperatures overnight, increased the firmness of the snowpack. Also, the course crew dilegently worked on fixing some "bumpy" areas to improve the consistency of the famed Lauberhorn after last week's fresh snow meant "soft" course conditions reported by athletes on Wednesday.   

"It's much better than yesterday," Janka said. "It should be a good race on the weekend." 

The day started off with a juggling act for Referee Gunter Hujara as two small trains, necessary for transporting athletes and coaches up to the top of the Lauberhorn from Wengen, had collided, derailing one. Hujara quickly administered "plan B"—that had been put in place in case of avalanche warnings—ordering two helicopters to airlift the 40 coaches just one stop above town, in Allmend, to the top. However, it was a false alarm as the rail system operators said they could provide another train for the coaches. Reportedly it was a nusiance more than anything, and no one had been hurt in the train incident. 

The training run resumed as scheduled on the beautiful, sunny day in Wengen. Schwiezer Fernsehen (Swiss TV) debuted a flying drone camera—designed and operated by the television station—that followed racers as they went over the Hundschopf jump. Didier Cuche said it stunned him when he went off. "I reported to the FIS representative that they have to be careful that it isn't coming too close," he said. "When you come over that turn and you see that—I didn't know they had drones—I thought something was coming at me, birds, or something. Now I know it so I won't be surprised for tomorrow, but I was quite surprised when I saw it." 

He likes the idea of the drone, though. "I don't know how fast it flies," he said, "but if they can make it look like we are going 150 kph, then that is going to be great."

For complete downhill training results, go here...

By Vanessa Pierce