Austrian skier Kriechmayr wins classic downhill in Kitzbühel

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KITZBÜHEL, Austria (AP) — Vincent Kriechmayr won the first of two downhills on the classic Streif course, while fellow pre-race favorites Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Marco Odermatt only narrowly avoided high-speed crashes Friday.

Kriechmayr mastered the demanding course in cloudy conditions as the world champion from Austria sped to his third win of the season and 15th overall.

“I have been really fighting. If you look at the results from previous years, I was not the favorite,” Kriechmayr told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “But I wanted to do things better this time. I took a lot of risks. I was not without mistakes but the risks paid off.”

As skies over the middle of the course cleared during the race, several late starters benefited from improved visibility.

Wearing bib No. 43, Florian Schieder posted the fastest times in the middle section and finished 0.23 seconds behind Kriechmayr in second for the Italian’s first career podium.

Swiss skier Niels Hintermann finished 0.31 behind in third, and Jared Goldberg came 0.35 back in fourth for the American’s career-best World Cup result.

Kilde, who leads the World Cup downhill standings after winning four of the previous six races this season, finished 0.97 off the pace in 16th.

The Norwegian lost time on Kriechmayr early on but gained on the Austrian at every following split. He then seemed to risk too much in the bend approaching the finish stretch. He leaned backward and came off the course, but regained control just before hitting a commercial banner.

“That was close, really close, almost too close,” Kilde said. “It really happened so quick. When I landed, I collapsed a little bit, and everything happens so fast. It’s Kitzbühel, it’s how it is.”

Odermatt, the overall World Cup leader, lost grip about 25 seconds into his run. He regained balance with his right ski high up in the air but almost crashed into the safety netting.

The Swiss skier avoided risks for the remainder of his run and finished more than three seconds behind and outside the World Cup points.

Goldberg’s American teammate Travis Ganong had bib No. 1 and his leading time stood for eight racers. Ganong finished 0.46 behind Kriechmayr in seventh and later told media he planned to retire after the season.

Kriechmayr remained the only skier not from Norway or Switzerland to win a men’s World Cup race this season. The Austrian also won two downhills in Italy in December.

Kriechmayr became only the third Austrian in the last 15 years to win the famous race, an annual highlight in ski-mad Austria. Another downhill is scheduled for Saturday.

The race was interrupted for 20 minutes after Henrik Roea crashed while crossing the finish going at 140 kph (87 mph). The Norwegian suffered an apparent leg injury and was taken to hospital with a helicopter.

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