Bode Miller has laid the gauntlet down to home favourite Hannes Reichelt, as the American went fastest on Thursday, to beat the Austrian and spoil the party, in what’s anticipated the most high-profile sporting event in Europe.
A lot of pressure is on Hannes Reichelt’s shoulders as he tries to become the first home winner, since 2006. This was a sport, that between 1935-1958, an Austrian won 13 out of 14 World Cups.
However, the American looked to rain on the home favourite’s parade, as he stormed to a first place finish in yesterday’s only run.
Due to poor weather conditions, only one training run was available and the American finished ahead of the leader, Svindal and home favourite, Reichelt.
In a sport of narrow margins, Miller was an emphatic 2.35 seconds ahead of Reichelt, and the Austrian admitted he has a lot of hard work to do: “My run wasn’t great and I am definitely going to watch a video of Bode’s run.”
Second in the standings, Reichelt took to Twitter to tell his fans of his frustration, as adverse conditions permitted riders from taking to the slopes: “@NReichelt: “No downhill training in Kitzbühel today… But nice free skiing.”
The world’s elite celebrities will be on show, to support the home favourite. Former politician and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, F1 World Champion Niki Lauda, and heir to the jewellery and glass firm, Alexandra Swarovski are all lined up to attend the spectacular extravaganza.
Serious doubt had been cast over the race, as helicopters were brought in to add artificial snow to the course, with training being cancelled on Wednesday (22nd), adding changes to Saturday’s programme.
The American knows it’s not all over, but he hopes he can continue his fine form and win on Saturday: "I've been focusing on this race all year," said Miller, who finished runner-up in 2008 and '11 but has yet to win the downhill in the Austrian resort.
"I know it's hard to win here. I've put a lot of energy in being ready here ... And I think I had fast skis today, too. Obviously on this track you can't do much if your skis are not running,” he added.
The downhill race, which takes place on The Streif, has been regarded as the ultimate challenge because of the diversity of its terrain. Since Austria’s Michael Walchhofer won in 2006, competitive neighbours, Switzerland, have dominated the downhill race, in Kitzbühel.
Currently top of the World Cup standings, is Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who is also top of the downhill leader board, ahead of the 74th Hahnenkamm on Saturday.
Yesterday saw Marcel Hirscher finish the day leading the standings in the Slalom, as he bids to become the first slalom double winner since Jens Ryggmark won back-to-back on the 27th and 28th January 2007.
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