BEAVER CREEK — Don’t get comfortable. Nothing’s ever safe at a super-G on Birds of Prey.
Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng roared from the No. 28 bib to his first World Cup win on Saturday, but only after watching Austrian Otmar Striedinger make one of the more improbable charges in 16 years of racing at Birds of Prey from the No. 45 spot, finishing just 0.24 seconds behind in second place.
“It’s good when you have (bib No.) 28 and you come in the finish and you have the green light and you know this is a good run,” Kueng said. “When you go (No. 2 or 3), and you have the green light, you don’t know if it’s a good time.”
The irony here was that just as Kueng was saying this, Stiedinger was charging from the 45th start position and posting green numbers at assorted splits that endangered Kueng’s first World Cup win.
And to add a little more of the bizarre to the day, Austrian Hannes Reichelt and Italian Peter Fill tied for third, both 38-hundredths back of Kueng’s winning time of 1 minute, 21.73 seconds.
Kueng is the sixth first-time World Cup winner men’s Birds of Prey super-G, and the third newbie in as many years. Kueng joins Norway’s Bjarne Solbakken (2003), Austrian Stefan Goergl (2004), Reichelt (2005), Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta (2011) and Italy’s Matteo Marsaglia (2012) as first-time winners in this race.
A trend that Kueng is happy to see broken is that he is the first male Swiss skier since the 2011-12 season to win a super-G.
“I can’t believe it now,” Kueng said. “Maybe, tomorrow. I’m happy today.”
Kueng got his first win by being one of few racers to gain time on the lower portion of the course. He was the second-fastest from Golden Eagle down to the finish. Only teammate Carlo Janka was faster, but he was done in by a slow start.
“I was on a good line, and I have a good feeling,” Kueng said. “I was also fast in the training. Now, I can put it in a race, it’s very good.”
Another reason for his success in that portion of the course was experience. Kueng was fifth in Friday’s downhill, coming out of bib No. 27 in what he felt was bad light. He felt he had better visibility on Saturday and was able to push more.
Kueng had only two podiums, coming into Saturday’s race — second in Bormio, Italy, in downhill on Dec. 29, 2011, and third in the same discipline in Garmisch, Germany, on March 10, 2010.
Striedinger nearly stole Kueng’s thunder. High bib numbers can crack the top 10, but it’s rare to find the podium. The 22-year-old Austrian did just that.
“When I was a young boy, my dream was to be a professional skier,” Striedinger said. “And I wanted to go into the (finish) stadium, and today as I passed the finish line, I was in second place, and I couldn’t believe it.”
Striedinger did have a good weekend up in Lake Louise, Alberta, with 18th in the downhill and 17th in the super-G, but no one saw this coming. Those two finishes were his best to date.
“For young (guys) like me, there’s no pressure. The veterans always have good (bibs),” Striedinger said. “I heard that Patrick was leading with No. 28, I think. Our trainers told us the slope was amazing and we should risk. I did it, and second place was the result. Unbelievable.”
Fill and Reichelt were more than happy to share the bronze.
It’s not unprecedented at the Birds of Prey in a super-G. Austria’s Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus tied for gold here during the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships.
Fill is on a bit of a roll here. The Italian hadn’t been on a podium since Jan. 16, 2009 in Wengen, Switzerland, with a silver in the super-combined. Fill now has bronze medals in the Birds of Prey downhill on Friday and the super-G on Saturday.
He hurt his adductor muscle in 2010, and it’s been a long road back.
“I was fast. I don’t know. Maybe, the mind was not OK to go fast,” Fill said. “I think I have more confidence now. It was the only thing I need to go fast. I’m a good skier. I can go fast but I need some confidence.”
Fill was fifth out of the gate, and Reichelt joined him on the hot seat with an identical time of 1:22.11.
Reichelt is no stranger to good results at Beaver Creek. Two of his six career World Cup wins have come here, both in super-G, including his first way back in 2005. He was second in the downhill on Friday, and has 10 top-10 finishes here in his last 17 starts.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.