Le Pays De France - Switzerland's Beat Feuz wins men's Olympic downhill

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Switzerland's Beat Feuz wins men's Olympic downhill
Switzerland's Beat Feuz wins men's Olympic downhill

Switzerland's Beat Feuz wins men's Olympic downhill

Switzerland's Beat Feuz scorched to gold in the men's Olympic downhill on Monday in a dramatic race that pitted skiers against an unforgiving course that was untested before the Games.

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The Swiss racer clocked 1min 42.69sec, finishing 0.10sec ahead of 41-year-old Frenchman Johan Clarey, while Austrian Matthias Mayer claimed a third Olympic medal in three Games with bronze.

An elated Feuz whooped in the finish area after he saw the green light signifying he had taken the lead. He flicked one ski high in the air and sent it twirling skywards, to the delight of a crowd of a few hundred people made up mainly of volunteers and team members.

Pre-race favourite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway was pushed out of the medals, finishing fifth.

Feuz, who won downhill bronze in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, and 2014 champion Mayer became just the eighth and ninth skiers to win multiple Olympic medals in the downhill.

Cascading down the testing "Rock" piste with a vertical drop of 890 metres (2,920 feet), skiers quickly reached motorway-cruising speeds of 140 kilometres per hour (87 miles per hour).

They soared in excess of 40 metres off some of the five jumps that punctuate a rolling man-made course offering stunning cloudless views.

A rip-roaring, snaky upper section that left racers in no doubt about what awaited them.

Arms and poles flailed as skiers tried desperately to maintain equilibrium.

- Wise heads -

There was early drama as Germany's Dominik Schwaiger, starting with bib number two, suffered a crash in which he lost a ski, collided with the safety netting and slowly came to a halt in the middle of the piste, writhing in pain as he clutched what looked like a nastily injured forearm.

He was evacuated by stretcher, while Austrian Daniel Hemetsberger screamed past the finish line with blood streaming from his nose and mouth.

Feuz made no such mistake, however, the sturdy Swiss racer who thrives on testing pistes like the Streif in Kitzbuehel was best at negotiating the 40 gates of the 3.1km-long course, fashioned from artificial snow on a barren mountainscape in Yanqing, north of Beijing.

Two World Cup races on the hill, in 2020 and 2021, were cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions in China, meaning racers had little time for reconnaissance.

And it was the old heads that shone through.

Clarey's silver at the age of 41 beat the record for oldest Olympic medallist in alpine skiing that previously belonged to American Bode Miller, who claimed bronze in the men's super-G in 2014 aged 36 years and 127 days.

Defending champion Aksel Lund Svindal, who earned Norway's first ever men’s downhill gold medal in 2018, retired from the sport in 2019.

Much weighed on the shoulders of Kilde in Svindal's absence, but the Norwegian's fifth place behind Canada's James Crawford completed a disappointing day for alpine skiing's golden couple after his girlfriend and US medal hope Mikaela Shiffrin skied out of the women's giant slalom.

World Cup overall leader Marco Odermatt of Switzerland finished seventh, at 0.71sec, behind Italy's Dominik Paris and ahead of Austria's current double world speed champion Vincent Kriechmayr.