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WENGEN, Switzerland — It is never easy for Switzerland to watch an Austrian downhiller win its signature ski race that is part of the Alpine nation’s culture.
It was even harder to take Saturday as Vincent Kriechmayr won the classic Lauberhorn race that Swiss team officials said this week he should not have been allowed to start.
Kriechmayr’s victory in a sun-splashed World Cup downhill beneath the Eiger mountain came despite missing midweek training runs that are typically mandatory. He had been kept in quarantine in Austria after testing positive for COVID-19.
He had arrived in Wengen late Wednesday, after the two training runs, but was cleared by race officials who insisted Kriechmayr — the reigning world champion in downhill — had not been given special treatment under International Ski Federation rules.
In a further twist, Kriechmayr’s winning run denied Swiss favorite Beat Feuz a record fourth win in the storied race.
The Austrian winner finished 0.34 seconds ahead of runner-up Feuz down the tiring 2 2/3-mile course that is the longest on the World Cup circuit.
Kriechmayr’s winning time at just over 2 minutes, 26 seconds was 0.44 faster than third-placed Dominik Paris of Italy.
Switzerland’s emerging ski star Marco Odermatt was fourth, trailing by 0.46.
Odermatt extended his lead in the overall World Cup standings to a big 390-point margin from Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who was 0.98 back in seventh. Kilde had won Friday’s downhill ahead of Odermatt on a shorter Lauberhorn course.
Paris’ 60 points earned on Saturday gave him the lead Kilde had held in the season-long downhill standings in a tight contest where Odermatt in sixth place is just 40 points back.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle finished 15th and became the third U.S. male Alpine skier to clinch an Olympic spot.
Cochran-Siegle, ranked 12th in the world in downhill and 11th in super-G, is one of three American men with top-five finishes on the World Cup this season. The others, fellow speed racers Travis Ganong and Bryce Bennett, previously clinched Olympic spots.
Cochran-Siegle, 29, raced four events in his Olympic debut in 2018 with a best finish of 11th in the giant slalom.
The U.S. currently has six men’s Olympic quota spots, but could get more. If no American finishes in the top 10 in Sunday’s slalom in Wengen, then River Radamus and Luke Winters will be the fourth and fifth U.S. men to clinch Olympic spots.
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Vincent Kriechmayr wins Wengen Lauberhorn downhill; American qualifies for Olympics originally appeared on NBCSports.com