By The Associated Press on December 28, 2023.
BORMIO, Italy (AP) – Overall World Cup leader Marco Schwarz suffered a season-ending knee injury Thursday at an eventful downhill on the Stelvio, one of the circuit’s most demanding courses, that was won by French skier Cyprien Sarrazin.
Schwarz damaged his right knee when he caught a bump before getting thrown off the course halfway through the Austrian’s run. He was taken off the hill by a helicopter and brought to a clinic in Innsbruck, Austria.
The Austrian Ski Federation said on X, formerly Twitter, that Schwarz tore his ligaments and the inside meniscus, and bruised a bone, adding that he “has to end the season prematurely.”
Last week, Schwarz overtook two-time defending overall champion Marco Odermatt as leader of the season rankings after winning a night slalom, but his exit from Thursday’s race sent the Swiss skier back to the top.
Odermatt, the GS world champion, came runner-up as he was edged out by Sarrazin by 0.09 seconds as the Frenchman surprisingly won the classic race on the icy and bumpy course to end an eight-year wait by the French team for a World Cup downhill victory.
“The best feeling ever,” said Sarrazin, who screamed “whoo-hoo” and stuck his tongue out after finishing.
“It means the world for me, after all the injuries, all the bad moments and good moments of my career. Today I feel great, so, so good.”
Canadian racer Cameron Alexander, the world championship bronze medalist, finished 1.23 behind in third.
“Finally, I did a great run from the first gate to the finish line,” Sarrazin said. “I felt so great and I pushed all along, I think it’s crazy. When I crossed the finish line, I said: “˜Yes, you did your job.’ It’s perfect.”
Sarrazin earned the second victory in his injury-marred career after winning a parallel giant slalom seven years ago in only his seventh World Cup start. The last French downhill winner was Adrien Theaux, who triumphed at another Italian venue, Santa Catarina, in December 2015.
Sarrazin’s win came less than two weeks after he finished a career-best fourth in the Val Gardena downhill.
The Frenchman then posted the fastest time in one of the training runs on the Stelvio this week, but didn’t regard himself a contender for the win.
“Just be yourself and see what happens,” he said when asked about his mindset before the race.
Odermatt earned his 11th career downhill podium, but came up a few hundredths short once more of a first victory in the discipline.
“It was the perfect run, it was how I wanted to race, extremely to the limit – but one guy was faster,” said Odermatt, adding that he lost the race in the last section where Sarrazin was 0.23 seconds faster.
Last season’s World Cup downhill champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde quit his run after his ski hit a rock and got damaged.
“The inside of the left ski had quite some rips in it. Then it’s impossible to ski Bormio because it’s so icy. Every time I went on the edge, it slid away,” Kilde said.
Other racers struggled as well as the Stelvio lived up its billing as one of the toughest downhill courses.
Coming off his 18th career win in downhill less than two weeks ago, Dominik Paris lost balance after catching a bump entering a right turn. The Italian, a record six-time winner of the Bormio downhill, avoided a crash and managed to continue his run, but finished more than six seconds behind.
Bryce Bennett led the downhill standings coming into the race after finishing first and third, respectively, in two races at another Italian resort, Val Gardena. But the American, who finished fourth here in 2018, never looked comfortable on his run down the Stelvio and finished nearly five seconds off the pace, failing to score World Cup points.
A super-G on the same hill is scheduled for Friday.
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