Sunday’s Men’s Downhill was probably the week’s most anticipated event at the 2023 World Championships in Courchevel and Méribél, France. Some consider the downhill the ‘King of Alpine discipline’, and what’s more awe-inspiring than Alpine skiers hurtling down the mountain at speeds exceeding 90 mph? It takes a particular fearless personality to be able to do that; they are certainly a breed of their own.
Sunday’s start list comprised the top 45 of these fearless men battling it out for the title of World Downhill Champion. Expectations were high for Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, as he had won five of the eight World Cup Downhill races this season. 2021’s defending Downhill Champion, Vincent Kriechmayr from Austria, was another favorite for the title, especially since his Swiss arch-rival Beat Feuz had retired last month.
Victory, however, went to Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, currently the World Cup overall leader. Despite being an incredibly strong skier, downhill is not his strongest Alpine discipline, and he had never won a World Cup podium in downhill, like his teammate, yesterday’s women’s Downhill winner Jasmine Flury. The double Downhill victory for Switzerland is the first double World Championship podium in downhill in 36 years. In 1987 Peter Müller and Maria Walliser had last achieved that feat at the World Championships in Crans Montana, Switzerland.
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde raced into second place 0.48 seconds behind Marco Odermatt, and Alexander Cameron from Canada came third 0.89 seconds behind. The fairly large lead — by Downhill standards — makes Odermatt’s run even more impressive, and the Swiss skier knew it was a near-perfect run, saying in an interview with FIS: “It was for me the perfect run, maybe the best downhill I have ever shown. I knew something was possible, but that it works like this is unbelievable.”
Kilde could not keep up with the 25-year-old Swiss, admitting: “I tried my best, but being one of the favorites, you have a lot of pressure. I knew that Odermatt had delivered something really, really good. So I tried to charge as hard as I could, but I messed up a couple of turns, and that cost me. But it’s still quite incredible, and the way I feel now is super. I really tested myself. For sure, Marco and I will battle for the rest of the season, and I will keep trying to beat him. He is a hard nut to crack. In downhill, I’ve been in front of him until today, but that is all a part of it.”
The biggest surprise of the day, however was probably North Vancouver, BC, native Alexander Cameron coming in third. Canadian medal hopes had been resting with his teammate James Crawford instead, who had won the Super-G earlier this week. It was Alexander’s first race at a major championship. Crawford, who finished fifth, said he was “not surprised at all” with his teammate’s performance, saying, “he’s always had the speed.” Teammate Jeffrey Read came 30th, and unfortunately, fourth Canadian Downhill skier Brodie Seger had to be stretchered off following a crash.
The best US skier was Erik Arvidsson from California in 17th. A fantastic result for the 28-year-old American. His goal this season was to climb into the top 30 in the World Cup start list in Downhill or Super-G. Ryan Cochran-Siegle came in 24th and Jared Goldberg 26th, while Travis Ganong, who had come 3rd at the legendary Streif earlier this season, came in 28th.
After a break on Monday, the World Championships continues into its second week on Tuesday with the Team Parallel event. Sixteen mixed teams will battle it out for the world’s best ski nation title. Parallel is run in a knock-out format, with the winner of each round scoring a point for their team. In case of a point draw (aka 2-2), the team with the best aggregate time wins. The winning team advances to the next round.
Austria beat Germany in the 2022 Olympics and is a hot contender for the World Champion title. On the parallel team for Team USA are Katie Hensien, Paula Moltzan, Nina O’Brien, Tommy Ford, River Radamus, and Luke Winters. However, only four of the six will compete on the day. Mikaela Shiffrin will not start in the Team Parallel. The US Team will face Poland in Heat 3 in the first round of 16.