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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Beat Feuz wins men’s downhill by tenth of a second

The victory was a long time coming for Beat Feuz of Switzerland.

By Bill Pennington

Beat Feuz of Switzerland, a 34-year-old brawny downhill specialist whose career was threatened by a serious knee injury a decade ago, won the Olympic men’s downhill Monday at the National Alpine Center in Yanqing, China.

Feuz, who won two Alpine medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, has had a strong season this winter with a victory in the famed Hahnenkamm downhill at Kitzbuhel, Austria, last month. He also had two other podium finishes in World Cup speed races.

Feuz’s time of 1 minute 42.69 seconds was a tenth of a second ahead of silver medalist Johan Clarey of Canada and 16 hundredths of a second ahead of Matthias Mayer of Austria, who won the event at the 2014 Sochi Games. Clarey, 41, is now the oldest Alpine Olympic medalist. The record had been held by Bode Miller, who was 36 when he won a bronze medal in the super-G at the 2014 Olympics.

It was the first Olympic downhill victory for Feuz, who once dominated World Cup downhills and won four season-long titles in the discipline. He also missed several seasons in his 20s as he weathered debilitating injuries to his left knee, including an infection that made amputation a possibility. But Feuz has rallied since 2017, and his perseverance and later career successes have made him a popular figure on the World Cup circuit.

As the 13th racer out of the gate, Feuz navigated the many snaking turns of the racecourse, called “The Rock” because it is carved out of a mountain ridge that resembles a knife’s edge. Feuz was fastest in the steep, turny pitch to start the race, and although he lost some time in the section known as the Silk Road and soared a bit recklessly off the perilous Sugar Jump, he began to build speed confidently though the narrow roller coaster bends of the Canyon segment of the track to catch Mayer, who had led the race since starting as the ninth racer.

Feuz also conquered a racecourse that was largely an unknown to the world’s top downhill skiers. It was built in the past few years expressly for the Beijing Olympics, and while it is typical for new venues to have several test events for racers to familiarize themselves with the course, those races were never held because of pandemic restrictions.

In two training runs before Monday’s downhill, skiers struggled to find a rhythm and often flew too far off blind jumps in their path. High winds added to the inherent danger and canceled the last, and usually most important, training session.

The top American finisher was Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who was 14th.

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