Canada’s Erik Guay takes silver at men’s downhill world championship

Canada's Guay wins silver in men's downhill

Canada’s Erik Guay is happy right where he is — on a World Cup podium.

Guay earned his second medal of the week on Sunday, winning silver in the men’s downhill at the world skiing championships four days after winning the super-G title. Although most skiing fans are looking toward the Winter Olympics next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Guay’s focus is squarely on the World Cup circuit.

“Everybody’s talking about the Olympics but, honestly, I couldn’t care less about them,” said Guay in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from St. Moritz, Switzerland. “The Olympics, for ski racers, doesn’t mean that much. We get to go once every four years, we don’t run on the track beforehand. The organizers (at a World Cup event) know how to prepare and run a downhill properly.

“A lot of times we show up at these Olympics and it’s supposed to be the greatest event on Earth but in reality it’s a little bit of a Mickey Mouse show.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz finished 0.12 seconds faster than Guay, who would have matched American Bode Miller’s 12-year-old feat of winning both speed races at the world championships. Max Franz of Austria was third, 0.37 behind Feuz, who took downhill bronze two years ago.

Though Feuz’s top speed of 119 km/h was slower than many rivals, he was best at keeping speed through the twisting turns midway down a shortened course.

“I think where I could have possibly won the race was this one section that I gave a little bit off of it,” said Guay. “But it was part of the plan to bring more speed on the bottom flats.”

Feuz knew that it was going to be difficult not just against the more experienced Guay, but performing in front of his home nation, including Swiss tennis star Roger Federer.

“I felt the pressure,” said Feuz, favoured to repeat his win in the World Cup finals downhill last March, through a translator. “I knew the expectations of the Swiss people. It was important not to go crazy with all that.”

A lower start was used because the steep “Free Fall” section — the signature feature of the Corviglia course — was shrouded in clouds.

The marquee men’s race looked wide open as the reigning Olympic champion, world champion, season-long World Cup champion, and the past six World Cup race winners were all competing.

Less than two weeks ago, Guay badly bruised his buttock flying out of control off a jump in Garmisch, Germany. He credited the inflatable safety vest he wore for avoiding more serious injuries but it took some work to get back into racing shape.

“I look at where I came from with the massive crash in Garmisch, and then being able to come here, getting healthy beforehand, having some good training and then finally being able to walk home with two medals, it’s a really special week, especially knowing where I came from last week,” said Guay, who says he has no lingering affects from the injury.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., was 31st, 1.93 seconds off Feuz’s winning time.

Feuz joined Swiss teammate Wendy Holdener, winner of the women’s combined event on Friday, as home gold medallists from the first five races.

American Lindsey Vonn took bronze two hours earlier in the women’s downhill race, won by Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

Stuhec was faster than any of the men Sunday, clocking 125.6 km/h on the adjoining course. Valerie Grenier, also from Mont-Tremblant, was 32nd in the women’s race, finishing in 1:35.86.

Without their steep start, the men’s race peaked at 122.5 km/h clocked by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who placed 17th.

“I would have loved to start from Free Fall because it’s a little bit faster then,” said Feuz, whose run turned out to be fast enough regardless.

— With files from The Associated Press

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press