Cameron Alexander ended an eight-year Canadian wait for a men’s World Cup downhill win on Friday, sharing victory with Swiss rival Niels Hintermann after the pair upset the top contenders for the season title.
Alexander, a late starter with bib No. 39, matched Hintermann’s time of 1 minute, 44.42 seconds. The sunny conditions on the Olympiabakken course allowed several lower-ranked skiers to post top-10 results.
No Canadian had won a World Cup race in the sport’s fastest discipline since Erik Guay, the 2011 world downhill champion, triumphed on the same course in Norway in 2014.
“To win in the same place that somebody like Erik has … to be at the same level as he was at the same race, is crazy, phenomenal,” said Alexander, a native of North Vancouver, B.C., who called now-retired Guay one of his idols. “He has obviously shown greatness throughout his career in this sport and he is someone I looked up to coming up as a ski racer.”
Cameron’s run came more than half an hour after Hintermann became the first to beat the leading downhill racers.
Hintermann started 17th, after most pre-race favorites had done their runs, edging then-leader Matthias Mayer of Austria by 0.12 seconds for his second career victory.
Olympic downhill champion Beat Feuz, a teammate of Hintermann’s, was 0.19 behind in fourth, and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was one-hundredth further back in fifth.
“It’s amazing. He did extremely extraordinary well,” Hintermann said after Alexander posted the same time.
Alexander’s result meant that Kilde stayed at the top of the downhill season standings. With another downhill on Saturday and the season-ending event in France the only races remaining, the former overall champion from Norway leads Feuz by three points. Mayer trails by 28 in third.
Kilde remained the only racer to win multiple World Cup downhills this season. He has not won a downhill season title before. Feuz won the globe in each of the past four seasons.
When many believed the race was over, Alexander used his knowledge of the course to stage the upset.
After failing to make the Canadian team for last month’s Beijing Olympics, Alexander went to Kvitfjell to compete in three speed races on the second-tier European Cup circuit — and with success. He won a downhill, finished fifth in another and placed second in a super-G.
“I just tried to give it everything I had,” Alexander said about Friday’s race. “I knew I had speed here, so all I had to do was go out there and try to let it go.”
His only previous top-10 result in the World Cup came on the same course in Norway, when he finished 10th in the downhill two years ago.
Hintermann’s win followed downhill podiums in Italy in December, when he finished third in Val Gardena and Bormio in the span of 10 days, his only previous top-three results in the discipline.
“It’s a childhood dream to win a downhill race. Even with my two podiums it still feels a kind of unreal because everything needs to be together on a day like this,” said Hintermann, who revealed he has a love-hate relationship with the course.
“I had two of my worse injuries here, but I kept on liking the track, but the track didn’t like me, yet,” he said. “But today we kind of liked each other.”
Friday’s win came more than five years after his first, when he stunned the field at a combined event in Wengen. Hintermann led the decisive downhill portion when heavy snowfall set in and robbed the favorites from any chance to beat his time.
Friday’s race replaced the downhill that was canceled in Lake Louise, Alberta, in early December.
—The Associated Press