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Kilde extends WCup downhill dominance with Kitzbühel win

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde dominated another men’s World Cup speed race Friday with a clear win in the downhill on the Streif course.

It was the Norwegian’s sixth win in 12 speed events this season, and third in a downhill.

Kilde beat Johan Clarey by 0.42 seconds, while French teammate Blaise Giezendanner surprisingly made the podium in third as a late starter with bib No. 43.

Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, centre, France's Johan Clarey, left, and Austria's Matthias Mayer pose following an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoGiovanni Auletta)

Giezendanner finished 0.63 behind as he bumped Matthias Mayer off the podium by four-hundredths of a second. The two-time Olympic champion from Austria won the race two years ago.

Overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt of Switzerland was fifth, 0.78 seconds behind. He was the last racer to finish within a second of Kilde's winning time.

Kilde missed the classic downhill last year after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in training the week before.

Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoMarco Trovati)

“Standing here now just over a year after I had my knee operation it’s quite incredible,” said Kilde, whose best result from six previous starts on the Streif was sixth in 2016. “A lot of things have to happen for you to win and today was one of those days where I really had a good feeling.”

Gusts high up on the mountain forced organizers to lower the start to the Mausefalle, leaving out the original steep start section and subsequent jump. It shortened run times by about eight seconds.

Strong winds and light snowfall made for changing race conditions. It allowed several competitors to clock a faster time than Kilde at certain splits, but no one matched the Norwegian’s consistency.

France's Johan Clarey gets to the finish area after completing an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoGiovanni Auletta)

Kilde also mastered the Hausberg passage, where organizers had changed the course setting following a series of crashes in recent years.

The gates now forced racers to make a slight turn before approaching the traverse that leads into steep finish section, intended to lower their speed going over the final jump.

Marcel Hirscher was one of the forerunners who test a course before the race starts. The record eight-time overall World Cup champion from Austria never raced a downhill in his career.

France's Johan Clarey speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoMarco Trovati)

Governmental anti-coronavirus measures in Austria allowed for 1,000 spectators, only a fraction of the usual crowd of 45,000.

The traditional Hahnenkamm weekend also includes a slalom on Saturday and will be concluded with another downhill. Each race winner earns 100,000 euros ($113,000) from a record overall prize fund of 1 million euros ($1.13 million).

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France's Blaise Giezendanner celebrates after completing an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoGiovanni Auletta)

Austria's Matthias Mayer speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoMarco Trovati)

Forerunner Marcel Hirscher speeds down the course during an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP PhotoMarco Trovati)