Skiers take aim at men's world downhill course

Luke PHILLIPS
·3-min read
Home hope Dominik Paris, who finished fifth in Thursday's super-G, criticised the downhill course at the Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Dominik Paris topped the first downhill training run at the world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo on Friday, but was one of many racers to take aim at the course setting.

Paris was credited with 1min 40.78sec down the course, albeit having missed a gate that would have seen him disqualified from a race proper.

Racers will get another training run on Saturday before the blue riband event of alpine skiing itself on Sunday, FIS race director Markus Waldner promising changes to the course.

The 2.6km-long Vertigine course, Paris argued, was "very turny" and more like a technical giant slalom in the mid-section where setters had sought to reduce speeds going into a jump that proved problematic in Thursday's super-G, a shorter speed event on the same slope.

"Maybe they need to change, all the athletes have asked," said the Italian who finished fifth in the super-G, a little more than a year after blowing his knee in Kitzbuehel.

"It's not a downhill setting."

American Bryce Bennett was more outspoken, calling the course setting "terrible, atrocious. It's not downhill skiing".

"I don't like that at all," said Bennett, who finished 27th in the super-G.

"When you're making turns at 20km/h, it's not downhill.

"They're really making it safe. The top is obviously fun and set well, and the bottom, but the middle section is a joke.

"Hopefully they'll make some adjustments."

- Not at ease -

France's Johan Clarey, one of the elder statesmen of the male ski circuit at 40 years of age, admitted that he "wasn't at ease, I don't think anybody was".

"There are really giant slalom turns just before the jump to slow us down, I think they'll adjust the track for tomorrow, give it a bit more speed in places," he said.

"The hill isn't adapted to the downhill but we're obliged to make do.

"It's a shame because up top is fantastic, it's just that jump in the middle which is tricky to ski, but there you go, you just have to manage it."

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, the defending world downhill champion, was equally pragmatic, ruing the lost opportunity to race in Cortina at the World Cup finals last season which were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We're a little like the guinea pigs for trying it and it was a shock for skiers," said the Norwegian who has also won silver and bronze medals in downhill at the last two Olympics.

"You have an inspection, ski it, it is what it is," he said, adding that a racer has to "do something extraordinary to bring your speed down".

"It's one training run, there's another one tomorrow and then the race..."

FIS race director Waldner responded to the criticism by promising adjustments to the course.

"It was a safe approach from our side, this was the plan. We knew that the boys will complain," Waldner said.

"We need to understand with how much speed you can go through this jump.

"Now we have this margin, we can open up three gates before by three-four metres and tomorrow will be perfect, a nice jump you'll see."

With little feedback on the jump, Waldner said course setters had erred, rightly, on the side of caution.

"It's our philosophy," he said. "It's very difficult to estimate about what we can expect, therefore we decided to go this very safe way.

"The boys will have more fun tomorrow!"

lp/td