Kicking off the Alpine World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, were the alpine speed teams. The first event on the World Cup Finals calendar were the Men’s and Women’s Downhill events. A Downhill race is the fastest of the Alpine events and consists of a single run. Skiers will often reach speeds of 80-90mph.
Germany’s Romed Baumann was first in the starting gates and put down a fast solid first run, more than two seconds faster than the quickest training run the previous day. It was hard to gauge from a first starter how good that time was, but as the race progressed, it crystallized that it was, in fact, a fast time and enough for second place. It is the German’s first World Cup podium in eight long years. Baumann’s teammate Andreas Sander was third out of the gate and put down another fast run, which was enough for third in the end. Sander has been having a solid end to his ski season after skiing only 0.05 seconds behind Odermatt in Aspen last week, winning his first career podium.
Victory went to Vincent Kriechmayr from Austria, who ranked second in the 22/23 season Downhill standings behind Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The Austrian put down a strong start, skating quite far into the start section before going into a tuck. His winning time is a mere 0.08 seconds faster than second-placed Romed Baumann’s and 0.13 seconds faster than third-placed Andreas Sander.
All eyes were probably on the big rivals, Marco Odermatt from Switzerland and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde from Norway. Odermatt hopes to break Hermann Maier’s 23-year-old record of winning 2,000 points in a single season. After 20 podiums, of which 11 were victories, in just 23 races, the 25-year-old Swiss skier is currently at 1,826 points. Odermatt had starting bib 12 but could not match the faster times achieved by earlier bib numbers, finishing in a disappointing 15th place. Downhill is not Odermatt’s strongest discipline, but 15th place is probably comparably disappointing for the legendary Swiss skier. It is his second-worst performance of the 22/23 season.
Likewise, expectations were high for Norway’s Kilde as he has won six Downhill World Cup races and is currently ranked no. 1 in Downhill. The Norwegian had secured the Downhill crystal globe despite today’s FIS points but skied into a disappointing sixth place in Soldeu. Usually, Kilde does well on flatter start sections, as he can start well out of the gates, but wind can also be an important factor, so that it may have played a part. Irrespective of Wednesday’s Downhill race, it has been an excellent season for the Norwegian, and Kilde walked home with the coveted 22/23 Downhill Crystal Globe, which was handed out at the end of the day, with crystal medals going to second and third-ranked Kriechmayr and Odermatt for the 22/23 Downhill World Cup season.
US ski racer Ryan Cochran-Siegle skied into 17th, losing valuable time in the top section, which carried down into the bottom. Right behind him in 18th place was teammate Jared Goldberg. Travis Ganong skied into 20th place in his last-ever Downhill World Cup race. Ganong received a lot of cheers in the finish area for his 189th and last-ever World Cup race. Ganong donned the famous Downhill jacket in the finish area.
Another retirement run was held by Johan Clarey, who, at 42 years of age, has started in an impressive 246 World Cup races. He finished his last-ever World Cup race in 12th place.
Canada’s James Crawford put down a good run with a fast middle section, but it wasn’t enough for the top 10, and the 2023 Super-G World Champion ended in 13th place at the Downhill World Cup Finals.
A while later, the top 25 women fought it out on the same course. Like the men, the Downhill Crystal Globe was out of reach, clinched by Italy’s Sofia Goggia, who had won five out of nine Downhill races. Nevertheless, the Italian skier was ready to give it all and go for her sixth Downhill victory of the season, matching Lindsey Vonn’s record, but was bested by 0.51 seconds by Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec. Stuhec closes out the 22/23 season with two victories and two second places.
“It means really a lot actually because this time last year I was thinking, should I continue? Should I quit? What should I do with my life? Then I listened to my guts, and I was like OK, I will change things, and I will go on because I still had a feeling I could do it, and now everyone knows [I can],” Stuhec admitted in an interview with FIS after the race.
Third place went to Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, who has been at the top of women’s skiing for a decade. The 31-year-old is currently ranked second in the overall standings, second in the super-G standings, and third in the Giant Slalom standings. While she cannot overtake Mikaela Shiffrin in claiming the Overall Crystal Globe, the Swiss ski racer can win the Super-G Crystal Globe. Gut-Behrami is only 19 points behind Super-G standings leader Elena Curtoni from Italy. The Italian competed in the Downhill but suffered a nasty-looking crash but was seemingly unharmed and skied out. Curtoni’s big day will be tomorrow’s Super-G race. Aside from Switzerland’s Gut-Behrami, Austria’s Cornelia Hütter, and Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel can still claim the Crystal Globe, as they are less than 25 points behind the Italian.
Unfortunately, the DNF meant Curtoni collected no FIS points and missed out on a crystal medal for the third-ranked skier of the 22/23 season in Downhill by one point. Ilka Stuhec won the crystal medal for second-ranked, and the Crystal Globe for Downhill went to Sofia Goggia. Third-ranked for the season was instead Switzerland’s Corrine Suter.
“I am happy. Four downhill Globes is not few, and today, I am ending up with a good race. This season we have run nine downhills, and when you finish saying I won five and I crashed in one and my worst result was a second place, I mean ‘kiss my hand,’” Goggia remarked.
US ski racers Breezy Johnson and Isabella Wright also put down fantastic runs, finishing the World Cup Finals in sixth and seventh place, respectively.