Italy’s Christof Innerhofer claimed his maiden world ski gold when he won the men’s super-G at the world ski championships yesterday.
Hannes Reichelt of Austria took the silver medal with on-form Croatian Ivica Kostelic claiming bronze.
Innerhofer coped best with the icy conditions on day two of the competition, clocking a winning time of 1 minute, 38.31 seconds and finishing more than half a second ahead of his nearest rival.
Reichelt was 0.60 seconds off the pace with current World Cup leader Kostelic third at 0.72.
Having finished fourth in the super-G at the Val d’Isere world championships in 2009, the 26-year-old Innerhofer pulled out all the stops in a bid to win his maiden crown on the Kandahar course, which claimed several big names.
“During the race ... I just said to myself, ‘Christof, go flat out,’” beamed the Italian. “’This race is only every two years and up until now, you have only given 80 percent and today you need to go flat out. My goal was just to go flat out because you only get this chance every two years. And I did it.”
Prior to his win, Innerhofer’s best World Cup finish this season in the super-G had been fourth at Beaver Creek in December.
“It’s crazy ... it’s just a dream, I’m so happy ... It still hasn’t sunk in that I actually won,” he said after being cheered on by his traveling fans.
“I want to say thanks to the people who have supported me, who travel with me, who have stuck with me in good times and bad,” he added.
Reichelt was happy with his silver after seeing so many of his peers struggle on the icy course after a hard overnight frost in the Bavarian Alps.
“This medal has much more value, because that was probably the hardest super-G in history,” the Austrian said. “Normally, I don’t like these conditions, so I am astonished. On television, you could see how hard the course was.”
And Kostelic admitted the effort to claim bronze had left him exhausted.
“I didn’t show it to the camera, but I was ready to collapse with tiredness at the finish,” he said. “That was surely one of the most difficult races of my career.”
Defending champion Didier Cuche of Switzerland finished just outside the medals in fourth at more than a second behind after losing time consistently down the course.
Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was one of many who failed to complete the course.
American Bode Miller produced a gutsy display, but finished 12th at 2.75 seconds back having suffered the misfortune of losing a pole when he clipped a gate midway down the course.
“If you make mistakes, you’re not going to win,” Miller said. “But I felt I had the speed out there.”
Canada’s Erik Guay, who won the super-G race at the World Cup finals last March, was one of several victims who struggled with a tricky passage in the middle of the course and also failed to finish.
The world championships take a break today, when downhill training will be held. The women’s super combined will take place tomorrow.
The fortnight-long event finishes on Feb. 20 with the men’s slalom.