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Alpine skiing: Reichelt delights home crowd with downhill win

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Austrian Hannes Reichelt made up for teammate Marcel Hirscher's disappointing slalom with victory in the famed World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel on Saturday.

Starting with bib number 22, the 33-year-old Reichelt stormed down the 3.4km-long course on the Hahnenkamm mountain to clock 2min 03.38sec despite suffering from back pain to end an eight-year Austrian drought in the event.

"For an Austrian ski racer to win in Kitzbuehel is a dream," said Reichelt. "It's beautiful, there were tears in my eyes during the flower ceremony.

"It's very special. When you're a child you watch the races and dream of (winning) them. Now that dream has come true."

In a dramatic day of racing in front of a huge crowd, Norway's reigning world downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal finished second (2:03.59) with American star Bode Miller (2:03.72) third.

"2nd place Kitzbuhel downhill. I'll take it!!" tweeted Svindal.

"I knew that my run was good but there were a few sections that were not good enough. I had a feeling someone would take it."

Miller was also left rueing a big mistake on the testing Streif.

"After the training run the other day, when I skied really well, I think I've been progressing throught the season, coming back from a year away, this is what I'd been gearing up for," the 36-year-old said.

"I really had a lot of expectations and put a lot of pressure on myself to perform today.

"After making it through the top... I made a stupid mistake.

"The mistake I made up above was really one of those ones when I almost probably didn't finish the race after that because I was just bummed out, I wanted to break gates.

"I had to bring it back to finish the course."

Reichelt's sole previous downhill win came in the Italian resort of Bormio last year, and the victory was his seventh of his career on the World Cup circuit.

It was also a first Austrian victory on the Hahnenkamm since Michael Walchhofer's triumph in 2006.

Under the watchful eye of Austria's favourite son Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Mr Universe, action-film actor and governor of California, it was the perfect riposte after Hirscher saw his slalom hopes go up in smoke on Friday.

Importantly, Svindal's second placing saw him increase his lead in the World Cup overall standings to 102 points over Hirscher, with a super-G and super-combined scheduled for Sunday.

With racers reaching motorway-coasting speeds of 140km/h while being forced into negotiating 80-metre jumps, the Kitzbuehel downhill nearly always favours the more experienced racers who know how to better utilise their risk management.

Saturday was no exception, and with the downhill cut short in Wengen last weekend, the Hahnenkamm was the perfect workout for the speed kings before next month's Sochi Olympics.

When Miller powered down in bib number 11 to take a big lead on previous leader Matthias Mayer of Austria, there was a feeling the American had replicated his incredible lead run in Thursday's training session.

But the in-form Svindal outdid him from starting number 18.

The Norwegian's place atop the podium did not last long, however, as Austrian flags were waved and flares held aloft as Reichelt took to the starting gate from where racers touch 100km/h within 8.5 seconds of kicking out.

As he roared through the finish area, the crowd went wild and a rock re-working of a Viennese waltz was played over the tannoy to the delight of the 50,000 partisan spectators packed around the bottom of the Streif.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140125/alpine-skiing-reichelt-delights-home-crowd-downhill-win