World Cup: Silencing the critics, Reichelt wins
BEAVER CREEK — Welcome to Salzburg Creek, home of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
The Austrian province of just 580,000 people is having a really good Worlds so far here at Beaver Creek. Hannes Reichelt, born in Altenmarkt im Pongau, Salzburg, Austria, captured men’s super-G gold on Thursday at Beaver Creek, just two days after teammate Anna Fenninger, also born in the Salzburg province, won the women’s super-G here.
Canadian Dustin Cook was a surprise second, finishing 11-hundredths off Reichelt’s pace, followed by France’s Adrien Theaux in third.
Salzburg, a province of Austria with a population of 580,000, is in no way a stranger to skiing prominence. Also from area, whose capital is the eponymous city, are such luminaries as Hermann Maier, the skiing legend who won gold in both the super-G and downhill when Worlds were here last in 1999, and Annemarie Moser-Proell, who held the women’s World Cup record for career victories until American Lindsey Vonn broke that mark last month, and, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“I think the local work to getting ski racers up is maybe better than in the other parts in Austria,” said the newly crowned champ. “But it’s also that the World Cup (has events nearby). I think they make a good job, but they also have problems with the money, I heard.”
Thursday’s performance should help the coffers.
Reichelt is no stranger to success on the World Cup circuit with nine career wins, three of which had been at Beaver Creek, and 31 podiums, but had never won at Worlds, though this is his sixth appearance at the biennial event. His only medal at the Championships was a super-G silver in Garmisch, Germany, in 2011.
And in Austria, where skiing is followed with religious fervor, Reichelt’s lack of medals at Worlds and the Olympics — he was injured in 2014 — has not gone unnoticed. (The scrutiny is somewhat akin this state’s obsession with Peyton Manning’s health and whether he will return to the Broncos for next season.)
“Some of the media guys said, “OK, Reichelt is at the big events; he has problems to ski fast,” Reichelt said. “I’m happy about that result today so those guys are now quiet. Here it was really tough. I was one of the favorites and the pressure from outside was big, but the pressure from my side was bigger. To repeat the victory from December was tough. It makes me very happy to do this.”
Reichelt, 35, is the oldest gold medalist in Worlds history. He is also the first Austrian to win the men’s super-G at Worlds since Stephan Eberharter did so in 2003 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. And Austria has already matched its gold-medal total, two, at Worlds from 2013 (men’s slalom and the Nations Team Event), when they were on home snow in Schladming. Perhaps, Austria is exacting some revenge after the Americans won the most gold medals in 2013?
“I think the men’s team is really strong in Austria at the moment especially in downhill and super-G,” Reichelt said. “The U.S. guys stole our show in Schladming, so we’re trying to do the same here in the U.S.
“I think the U.S guys will fight back. That makes the sport so interesting.”
With Theaux on the hot seat at the time, Reichelt used his intimate knowledge of Birds of Prey — this was his 27th start on this course — to perfection. He was in green numbers all the way, though he was nervous at the start.
“On this slope, it’s easy for me to be fast,” Reichelt said “But on the start, I was really nervous. But before 10 seconds I started, I said to me, ‘OK, ski aggressive and don’t say to you in the finish that I didn’t do anything what I can to make a good result here.’”
Quiet please, part II
Cook gave Reichelt a scare late, racing No. 28. He came within 11-hundredths of Reichelt.
Regardless of the color of the medal, Thursday was unquestionably the greatest day of Cook’s skiing career. Not only had the 25-year-old Canadian never been on World Cup podium in his career, he had never been in a top 10. Cook, who turns 26 next week, had never finished higher than 12th twice (super-Gs here and in Val Gardena, Italy, earlier this season.)
“I’ve been skiing really fast all year, fast in training for too many years,” Cook said. “This year, I’ve had good results, really good splits. For me, it’s a culmination of a lot of years. Nobody in Europe knows who I am. I know that I’m capable of this, for sure.”
While hockey is the national pastime north of the border, Canada’s recent struggles on the snow with Erik Guay and Jan Hudec injured had not escaped notice. The Vancouver Sun had a story, “Men’s team in a downhill spiral; Injuries to stars, lack of funding leaves little hope for optimism,” in Sunday’s edition.
“We read that article and had a good laugh at it,” Cook said.
Cook has a bit of a local tie. His significant other is Edwards’ Abby Ghent, who is on the U.S. Ski Team.
Theaux returns to the podium
Frenchman Theaux also has Beaver Creek connection. His first podium was at Beaver Creek, a silver in super-G on Dec. 4, 2010.
Theaux nabbed bronze by recording the fastest time from The Abyss to the finish, clipping Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud and Austria’s Matthias Mayer, who tied for fourth, by 3-hundredths of a second.
“It was a difficult season start for me this year,” Theaux said. “That’s why I’m more happy with this medal. It’s a great day for me, I think the most beautiful of my life. It was a long way from last summer to the season start. I was close to the podium in Kitzbuhel, (Austria). Now I’m on, so it’s perfect.”
Worlds continues with the women’s downhill today at 11 a.m.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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