IN-FORM Italian speed skier Dominik Paris beat a host of high-class rivals including Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal to claim super-G gold at the World Ski Championships on Wednesday.
Paris whose only previous world medal was a downhill silver in Schladming in 2013, timed 1min 24.20sec down the 2.2km-long Olympia course in bitterly cold conditions as the race lived up to its billing as one of the most unpredictable at these championships.
The 29-year-old, a massive heavy metal fan whose inspiration is American band Pantera, had arrived in Are, Sweden, in prime form having notched up three World Cup victories this season – the Bormio speed double and the famed Kitzbuehel downhill for a third time – along with three other podium finishes.
France’s Johan Clarey, 38, tied for silver with Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr, just 0.09sec off Paris’ winning time.
The men’s super-G was touted as one of most open disciplines in Sweden, with five different winners on the World Cup circuit this season and a host of podium finishers capable of pushing for a medal.
The now-injured Austrian Max Franz won in Beaver Creek, Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud in Lake Louise, Svindal in Val Gardena, Paris in Bormio and Germany’s Josef Ferstl in Kitzbuehel.
But Kriechmayr heads the World Cup standings ahead of teammate Matthias Mayer, with Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in fourth.
Despite the open field, there was heartbreak for Norwegian colossus Svindal, however, who finished in 1.25:12 (+0.92).
“Tough day on the course today,” Svindal said on instagram. “Not what I was hoping for . . . Now aiming for one grande finale on Saturday. The downhill is on!!!”
Svindal, who is to retire after Are, has five world titles to his name, but never the super-G.
After triumphing in the downhill (2007, 2013), combined (2009, 2011) and giant slalom (2007), hopes were high that the popular Norwegian could strike another gold as part of a perfect farewell from the pistes.
But it was not to be, and the 34-year-old was left punching his thighs and shaking his be-helmeted head in frustration as he raced through the finish line in front of a large partisan Nordic crowd.
Svindal’s teammate Jansrud, the 2014 Olympic champion and 2017 silver medallist, had to miss Kitzbuehel after breaking two fingers, but with his hand strapped up, he bravely came down the Are course to finish 1.18sec off Paris.
Austria’s reigning Olympic champion Mayer skied out on the demanding, hard-packed course with initial cloud cover that offered a flat light before lifting to hand a huge advantage to later runners.
Mayer’s compatriot Hannes Reichelt, who won 2015 world super-G gold and 2011 silver, also went out.