Austria’s Matthias Mayer one-upped his father by fending off a field of alpine giants to capture the Olympic men’s downhill gold medal on Sunday.
Mayer raced down the 3.495-kilometre Rosa Khutor course in 2 minutes 06.23 seconds for his first downhill win on the circuit, having never won a World Cup race or even finished on the podium in a World Cup downhill.
“This is unbelievable. I thought maybe in a few years I could dream of this sort of achievement. It was really cool and my family will be excited,” said Mayer.
“I woke up this morning and I knew that I could win this race. I was smiling the whole day, all throughout the inspection. It was my day today.” The 23-year-old’s father, Helmut Mayer, won super-g silver at the 1988 Olympics. The younger Mayer also restored Austrian pride after the nation went medal-less in all five alpine disciplines at Vancouver 2010.
Silver went to Italy’s Christof Innerhofer, who finished six-hundredths of a second slower than Mayer, who has yet to win a World Cup race but has two second-place finishes in super-g.
“That was my greatest race of the season. I haven’t been on the podium this season. I was almost on it but always failed. This is a big satisfaction today,” said Innerhofer.
“To win this medal was my deepest dream.” Innerhofer, 29, who won super-g gold and downhill bronze at the 2011 world championships, has won four World Cup downhills.
Swiping up the bronze was Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, who was just one-tenth of a second behind Mayer and added to his giant slalom silver from the 2010 Games.
“I feel good, the big favourites (Bode) Miller, (Aksel Lund) Svindal and Mayer. I went for it and luckily I had no mistakes,” said the bronze medallist.
Jansrud’s compatriot Svindal was the big hope after taking downhill silver at Vancouver 2010. But the World Cup downhill standings leader finished fourth, 0.29 seconds adrift.
“It is pretty much the worst place to be. I’ve been there before and probably will be again,” said Svindal, who was hoping to finally win Norway’s first downhill Olympic gold.
“If you want to fight for medals, you have to be prepared to lose out on them.” The race favourite Miller appeared to make some mistakes at the top but was still ahead of Mayer’s times in the first two intervals — 0.31 seconds after the second.
But the American, who was fastest in the last downhill training, lost more and more time as the run went on and was 0.52 seconds slower than the Austrian, finishing provisionally eighth after the first 30 starters.
“I feel disappointed. I skied hard and well, and that’s the most important thing. It just didn’t go all right,” said Miller, who was the fastest in training on Thursday and Saturday.
Miller wasn’t even the best American as Travis Ganong was fifth, ahead of Swiss Carlo Janka. The 2010 Olympic downhill champion Didier Defago of Switzerland finished 14th.