Two great heroic stories
The Streif marvels at Kilde and weeps with Feuz
01/22/2023 11:33 am
Speed dominator Aleksander Aamodt Kilde triumphs in the second race on the Streif. The Norwegian places the victory at the very top of his career – and is celebrated. This also applies and all the more to Beat Feuz. Some colleagues even shed tears.
Alpine skiing is celebrating two of its great heroes on the Streif – and for very different reasons. While Beat Feuz, the cult ball lightning from Switzerland, strapped on his racing skis for the very last time on Saturday afternoon and said goodbye with a final ride down the most legendary slope in the world, the expert audience was amazed at the Norwegian giant Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The speed dominator in the fast disciplines had ended wild days in Kitzbühel with what was “perhaps his greatest victory”.
Kilde fractured his right hand in training on Thursday; on Friday, in the first descent, he avoided a major fall at the entrance to the finish slope at a speed of 130 just as artistically as spectacularly. It was “a near-death experience,” said the 30-year-old. The pictures were really amazing, at the finish the fans opened their mouths. Too often they had seen brutal falls in the last meters. The Swiss Urs Kyrenbühel, for example. Or his compatriot Daniel Albrecht. “The fall,” he once said, “was actually a very small mistake. I could have died.” In 2009 he got caught. Contusion of the lungs, severe craniocerebral trauma, coma for almost four weeks. He survived. Kilde averted the impending horror.
The Terminator congratulates the Dominator
And he impressively shrugged off all thoughts of a “what if” scenario. 24 hours after the shock, Kilde slammed down the slope as if nothing had happened. “I’m proud of myself. They were difficult days. I had a little bit of chaos in my head,” said Kilde. In front of 45,000 spectators, it was Kilde’s fifth win of the season in the eighth downhill race (the other three were won by Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr), leveling the record with Austria’s Stephan Eberharter. As a fitting well-wisher, the Terminator stepped to his side. The king of the guests of honor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, got up slowly but purposefully and went down from the grandstand to pay homage to Kilde, that other almost indestructible man.
While more heroic rides can be expected from Kilde, the 30-year-old, another man thundered to the finish line, happy and healthy: Beat Feuz. The last time the Swiss driver slowed down at a racetrack, his long-time rivals were also overwhelmed by emotions. “I almost had a small tear in my eye,” said the German downhill racer Romed Baumann, who at 37 was even two years older than the Swiss. There were wet eyes in the stands too. Why so many feelings? “Because he’s just such a fine guy.” And not only that.
Colleagues adore the Kugelbitz
After a series of serious injuries that almost led to the amputation of his left leg in 2013, he is one of the greatest of his guild. Olympic champion in 2022, world champion in 2017, plus four other medals in major events – and 16 victories in the World Cup. Including three each for the classics Wengen and Kitzbühel. Which was also why Feuz, who made even the most difficult routes look easy, wanted to ride them again.
Feuz started in Kitzbühel on Saturday with the specially made starting number 217 – it was his 217th race. There was a tremendous cheer at the finish, even the VIPs and those pretending to be rose from their seats to pay homage to him and sing along to “Sweet Caroline”. Feuz finished 16th, “but the most important thing,” he said, “is that I’m healthy at the finish and can absorb everything again”. The rather unusual and consistent affection of his colleagues did him good, Feuz admitted: “It shows that I was always open to others and didn’t close myself off to competitors either.”