AFP St. Moritz, Switzerland
‘It’s just the whole history with coming back from injuries... coming back and forgetting about everything and enjoying it. Happy as can be. It’s incredible to be on the podium’
Canada’s Erik Guay capped his return from an injury nightmare to claim an emotional second world title when he surprised the field to win the men’s super-G in St Moritz yesterday.
The 35-year-old, the 2011 world downhill champion in Garmisch, timed 1min 25.38sec down the 1.9km-long Corviglia course in overcast conditions and admitted to tears after streaking into the finish area.
Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, the reigning Olympic super-G gold medallist and winner of three super-Gs this season, claimed silver, at 0.45sec, with another Canadian, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, taking bronze on his 33rd birthday (+0.51sec).
“It’s incredible,” said Guay, who best mastered the flat light and at-times rolling course that saw a handful of favoured racers ski out including Olympic downhill champion Mathias Mayer, winner of the Kitzbuehel super-G.
Guay, who had a big crash last week in Garmisch, has notched up just five World Cup wins in his long career, the last coming in the Kvitfjell downhill in March 2014 before undergoing knee surgery that summer that almost saw him end his life as a ski racer.
“It’s just the whole history with coming back from injuries... coming back here and forgetting about everything and enjoying it,” said the Quebec native, who finished third in last season’s World Cup downhill final in St Moritz. “Happy as can be. It’s incredible to be on the podium with Jansrud and Manny, two close friends.”
Guay added: “You hear it often in sports that it’s a team effort, but in this case it really is a team effort. I have to thank my therapists and doctors and coaches for getting me in the right mental space: all the people behind the scenes who helped to get me here.
“When I crossed the line and I saw the crowd react, everyone standing up and cheering, I knew that something good had just happened. I turned sideways and saw the green light. To finish 0.45 seconds in front of Jansrud is incredible, he’s such an unbelievable skier and has been dominating super-G. I was quite emotional and was glad I had googles on so no one saw my eyes.”
Jansrud expressed his delight at silver, saying he would now focus on Saturday’s blue-riband downhill. “I always want to aim for the gold, but Erik today showed us how it was supposed to be done. It was very impressive by him,” the Norwegian said. “I’m not feeling any disappointment, I’m very happy with the silver. I’ve been struggling a little bit with preparation coming into the world champs with sickness, but it’s a perfect day for me and I am now looking forward to the downhill.”
Osborne-Paradis made the most of improving light from his start bib number of 26, describing his bronze medal as “the best birthday present”.
“I made a big mistake in the middle of the course and I knew if I didn’t ski the rest of it well that would be it,” he said. “It’s the beauty of racing. It feels so good... To share it with Erik, I think I was able to get third because he won, I was so jazzed at the start, I had so much energy, it was pretty cool.”
Osborne-Paradis edged out a second “attacking Viking” in the shape of Aleksander Aamodt Kilde by three-hundredths of a second.
Stuhec tops women’s downhill training
Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec laid down a marker for Sunday’s world championship downhill by topping times in yesterday’s training in St Moritz. Stuhec, winner of five races this season including three downhills and a super-G, timed 1min 34.53sec.
Swiss duo Fabienne Suter and Lara Gut, bronze medallist in the super-G, came in second and third, with three other teammates in the top 10.
“The slope is really nice, it has a lot of terrain and jumps, so it’s fun to ski,” said Stuhec, who leads the World Cup downhill standings. “Every day will be different and everyone will be pushing more.”
American speed queen Lindsey Vonn skied out of Tuesday’s super-G, but was left satisfied with her training session in which she finished 11th, 2.34sec off the Slovenian’s pace.
“I just wanted to get a feeling for the course,” the 32-year-old said. “I wanted to ski down solid and build my confidence, have a first look. I took it easy on some of the jumps because I didn’t know what to expect and with this light it was hard to see the ground.”
“When the light is good it’s going to be really, really fun. Training is a good time to get a feeling for the snow and terrain,” added Vonn, who was set for her first slalom practice Wednesday in a very long time ahead of possible participation in Friday’s alpine combined event.
Super-G gold medallist Nicole Schmidhofer admitted that celebrations after her shock victory on Tuesday meant a poor showing in training, coming in 4.57sec off Stuhec. “It was not so good,” she said. “It was very slow because the night was really short! So it wasn’t really a training run for me.”
Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather claimed silver behind Schmidhofer and acknowledged that she had suffered the same relatively sleepless experience after medalling in the women’s opening event of the February 6-19 world championships.
“I wanted to go really easy today because I have some more training runs before my race Sunday,” she said of the downhill proper. “I wanted to save some energy because I’m a bit tired from yesterday. It was a full day, I got to bed pretty late and wasn’t really able to sleep because I was so fired up.”
Among other favourites, Austrian Ann Veith and Italian duo Sofia Goggia and Elena Curtoni all safely negotiated the course although Austrian Mirjam Puchner crashed out.
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