Patrick Staudacher gave Italy's men their first super-G title ever at an Alpine Skiing World Championship yesterday.
Staudacher, recently returned from eye surgery, took advantage of an early start number to charge down the Olympia course in a winning time of 1 minute, 14.30 seconds for the first major victory of his career.
"After I came down I was expecting a top-5 or top-6 result," said the 26-year-old Italian, who only had the stitches removed for his cornea operation a week ago. "Being at the very top now is crazy."
"It was definitely an advantage to start with a low bib number and I took advantage of this," he said.
The 26-year-old Italian had never before climbed the podium in either a World Cup or world championship race.
"No one from my home town is here today," said Staudacher, racing at his first world championships. "They're all coming for the downhill. No one was expecting this."
Austrian Fritz Strobl, the 20th skier out of the start, captured the silver medal with 1:14.62 for his first career world championship medal. He was fourth in downhill in 2005 and 1997.
Strobl, the 2002 Olympic downhill champion, was a controversial selection of the Austrian super-G squad at the championship.
"There was a lot of talk when I was chosen to race," Strobl said. "But I always said I'm not a joker but an ace."
Strobl was angry, however, about the starting order rules of the International Ski Federation, or FIS, which reverses the top-30 skiers in the discipline ranked on the World Cup. It means the world's best super-G skier begins 30th when the course is usually rutted and chopped up.
"To have a late start number here was a disadvantage for every top runner," the Austrian veteran said. "It's not fair. We are the puppets of the FIS."
Switzerland's Bruno Kernen took the bronze in 1:14.92.
"In the finish area I was sure my time would not be good enough. I kept losing pressure on my outside ski. Now I have [a] medal. That's unbelievable," Kernen said.
This was the first title awarded at the championships, where racing was delayed for three days because of strong winds and heavy snowfalls.
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