Aleksander Aamodt Kilde risked it all and won it all down Wengen’s famous Lauberhorn on Friday morning.
Out last of the top 15 seeds, the racer affectionally known as the Viking knew exactly what he needed to do to triumph in one of the most famous super-G races on the Audi FIS World Cup Tour: beat the field and break the hearts of the thousands of Swiss fans.
Not only had great rival Marco Odermatt got the cowbells ringing with a typically accomplished performance but in a big and enthusiastically received surprise, Odermatt’s compatriot Stefan Rogentin had gone even quicker.
The 28-year-old arrived at his hometown blue riband event with a best ever result of fifth in his 75 World Cup starts. But after recording the quickest time in downhill practice – ahead of Saturday’s much anticipated World Cup race – Rogentin flew.
Tight and on-point down all the Lauberhorn’s renowned sections, the Swiss man pipped in-form Odermatt – winner of two of the three previous World Cup super-Gs this season – and set the stiffest of targets at 1:48.11.
But far from concerning Kilde, it simply seemed to set him free.
“From the start I pushed as hard as I could and into Brüggli-S (more commonly known now as the Kernen-S) on the limit, but that’s how it is sometimes,” a delighted Kilde said with a laugh in the finish area.
His efforts in the Kernen-S, the consecutive right-left 90-degree turns, were indicative of a truly great run. The reigning World Cup super-G champion made a big mistake coming in and almost had a hip down, but he is so powerful, he managed to not only hold on but record one of the quickest exit times.
It was the sort of move that prompted everyone from rival Vincent Kriechmayr to girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin to express their admiration for a racer who seems to know very few limits.
“The three in front of me were insane of course. Aleks was pushing every metre,” said Kriechmayr, who ended in fourth after one mistake too many on the frighteningly quick top section.
Green lights on every split, Kilde induced more gasps of awe with his efforts down the Haneggschuss, Lauberhorn’s legendary pitch where top speeds approach 160kmph. In his tuck longer than anyone, Kilde held on to triumph by 0.27 seconds for his second win of the season.
“On the limit, that’s how we have to do it in super-G and sometimes it works and sometimes not,” Kilde said, still smiling.
Second place certainly made Rogentin smile too.
“Special day for me, amazing feeling. It couldn’t be better,” the Swiss racer said. “That’s so special, my first podium and to share it with Oddie (Odermatt), that’s perfect.”
The third place means it is a highly impressive two wins, a second place and that third from the four super-G World Cup races so far for Odermatt. But the racer, who holds on to a narrow lead at the top of the season super-G standings, insisted his smiles were predominantly for his teammate.
“I am more happy for him than for me I guess, it’s so nice to see him the first time on the podium,” Odermatt said. “He is so fast in training for years already and that he managed to do it now the first time here in Wengen, the most special race for the Swiss team, it’s very nice for him.”
The Swiss man, who is also battling Kilde atop the race for the 2023 overall title, acknowledged he has some homework to do, ahead of the big race on Saturday.
“Aleks had an incredible run, especially on the top. I have to watch his run and try to do it like him tomorrow.”
Conditions are set perfectly for one of the most anticipated downhill races of every year, with the Swiss crowd poised to go particularly wild for local hero Beat Feuz.
The reigning Olympic downhill champion races for the final time on home snow on Saturday and he showed he will not go quietly, recording his best super-G finish of the season with seventh.
But the final word goes to Mauro Caviezel. After a fine career, including the super-G World Cup title in 2020, the 34-year-old Swiss man took the opportunity to announce his retirement in front of his appreciative home fans.