BEAVER CREEK, CO – Marco Odermatt’s fellow racers watched from the top as he went too straight around one turn and nearly crossed his skis before another.
They marveled at his ability to recover. They admired his capacity to stay composed.
Above all: They know this 22-year-old from Switzerland will be a factor for quite some time.
Odermatt went on a wild ride to finish the technical Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 10.90 seconds Friday to earn his first World Cup victory. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway was second, 0.10 seconds behind, and Austrian Matthias Mayer took third.
“It was a perfect day for me, with a nearly perfect run,” Odermatt said. “I was really on the edge. I was lucky.”
He nearly went out in two spots only to recover and keep on cruising to the finish line.
In doing so, Odermatt snapped Austria’s string of four straight World Cup super-G wins at Beaver Creek. He needed a run just like this, too — barely on the verge of control around several turns.
“It’s whoever is willing to take the most risk and then pull it off,” said Travis Ganong, who finished sixth for the top finish among the Americans. “Odermatt, he took way too much risk and somehow it worked out. That’s a one out of 100 run.”
Odermatt was the second racer to take the hill, which can be a benefit or a detriment. On the positive side, the snow is still fresh. On the down side, there’s no course report.
The consensus was that going that early and making that sort of mistake was a benefit for Odermatt, because he was indeed able to recover on a cleaner track.
The one thing he didn’t do was panic.
“I just didn't want to break there and so I went full speed there and lost not so much speed,” said Odermatt, who was sure they were celebrating in his hometown of Buochs, Switzerland. “So it was possible to do a good run.”
His run earned the admiration of Kilde, who was among those watching Odermatt from the top of the course. Then again, Kilde’s been singing the praises of this new kid on the scene for a while.
This was Odermatt’s third career World Cup podium and first in speed. He took second and third places in giant slalom competitions last season. Odermatt also won four titles at the 2018 world junior championships in Switzerland.
“It looks so easy when he skis,” Kilde said. “Today, he really charged. I knew that was going to be really fast.”
Like Odermatt, Kilde made a tiny mistake. But he still turned in a fast time as the No. 17 racer.
“I knew,” Kilde said, “I had to charge myself ...”
“And he did,” Odermatt playfully interrupted.
“... And I did,” said Kilde, who finished in a three-way tie for third place last season during the super-G at Beaver Creek. “One mistake here, and he has one mistake and together we were one and two. He’s for sure the guy for the future. He's going to be the guy for Beaver Creek for the next 20 years.”
Mayer had a strong run despite a sore hip. He crashed in a giant slalom training session Tuesday and wasn’t sure how the hip would respond. Mayer won the opening super-G race of the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend.
“My hip is better,” Mayer said. “I’m pretty happy about third place.”
For German racer Thomas Dressen, this was about getting comfortable on the course again and not so much his place (27th). He crashed a year ago in Beaver Creek and tore the ACL in his right knee. Dressen, who won the downhill in Lake Louise last weekend, feels even more comfortable ahead of Saturday’s downhill.
“It’s not the course’s fault that I crashed. It’s mine,” Dressen said. “If you’re honest with yourself, you can learn from your mistakes. I like the course a lot. It's one of my favorites.”
There were several “DNFs” — did not finish — on the technical course, including the first racer of the day, Adrien Theaux of France.
“Today was especially challenging with the set,” Ganong said. “Really high speeds into some big fall-away turns, super bumpy. ... It was fun.”
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