Who will become the King of the Mountain?
BEAVER CREEK — OK, here’s one of many cool things about the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships: two downhills on back-to-back days.
Normally, we get our one men’s downhill during our traditional Birds of Prey stop in December. The people up in Lake Louise, Alberta, get all the fun with two downhills that same weekend. It’s our turn.
The ladies ran their race on Friday — congratulations to Tina Maze — and the gents go today at 11 a.m.
Not to count the Austrians out, but there should be a Norwegian presence today. Meet Kjetil Jansrud (Bib no. 18). You may remember him from such episodes as Birds of Prey 2014, when he won the downhill here. He was hot then and he’s hot now, having won a shortened Kitzbuehel, Austria, race as well as impressive showings in training.
Then there’s the “other” Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal (11). He wasn’t meant to be here after rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing soccer during the offseason. Svindal, whose resume includes two World Cup titles, nine other globes for discipline titles and a gold at the 2013 Worlds downhill, is miraculously back. He finished sixth in the super-G on Thursday in his first start of the season.
And then there are the Austrians — Hannes Reichelt (21) has already won the super-G this week. Matthias Mayer (20) is the defending Olympic champion in downhill, so the red and white should be well represented.
Italy’s Dominik Paris (16) has been on or hovering around downhill podiums all season, as has France’s Guillermo Fayed (17). Switzerland’s Beat Feuz (15) finished second here in December, capping a comeback from a myriad of injuries.
The Americans also have two winners this season in the discipline — Steve Nyman (10) and Travis Ganong (22).
It’s up for grabs, and should be a photo finish.
Numbers and history
Format: One run. Fastest time wins.
Stats: The men’s downhill starts at 11,424 feet and drops 2,470 feet during 1.63 miles. The approximate completion time, from years past, is 1 minute, 40 seconds. The average slope of the course is 17 degrees and maxes out at around 32 degrees at the Talon Turn. Watch the Talon Turn.
Winners: Kristian Ghedina (1997); Andreas Schifferer (1997); Herman Maier (1999 Worlds, 2000 and 2003); Stephan Eberharter (2002); Daron Rahlves (2003 and 2005); Bode Miller (2004, 2006 and 2011); Michael Walchhofer (2007); Svindal (2008 and 2013); Carlo Janka (2009); Christof Innerhofer (2012); Jansrud (2014). This is pretty much a who’s-who of downhillers.
Weather: Ridiculous for February with a high of 44 degrees. There’s a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Winds at 10-15 mph.
Things to know
Watch out: Talon Turn. This is a rule. Talon is a make or break. The Abyss is key as well. Just ask Miller, to whom we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Favorites: Jansrud, Reichelt, Mayer, Paris and Fayed.
Darkhorses: Can Svindal really win in his second start of the season? It seems possible. Nyman has three career wins, but they’re all at Val Gardena, Italy. He does have podiums, though, at Beaver Creek. Is Ganong ready to make the jump? He got his first World Cup win just after Christmas, but Worlds is another step.
Americans: Jared Goldberg (1); Nyman (10); Ganong (22); Andrew Weibrecht (35).
The picks: We all busted with Lindsey Vonn on Friday.
Shauna Farnell, Vail Daily: Nyman.
Chris Freud, Vail Daily: Jansrud.
Pat Graham, AP Denver: Paris.
Melanie Wong, Vail Daily: Reichelt.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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