Selva di Val Gardena, Italy (AP) — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won by a large margin in a World Cup downhill Saturday that was marred by a nasty crash involving Swiss skier Marc Gisin.
Gisin lost control before a jump midway down, flew into the air and landed awkwardly on his side and back right in the middle of the Saslong course’s famous camel bumps. He was then bumped into the air again and the back of his head hit the snow in a second impact.
Kilde finished a significant 0.86 seconds ahead of Austria’s Max Franz, who led the final training run.
Beat Feuz of Switzerland came third, 0.92 behind.
Gisin was lying motionless on the course before doctors and trainers arrived for assistance.
A rescue helicopter landed on the snow and took off for the hospital in nearby Bolzano with Gisin onboard after he had received treatment for almost a half-hour.
“His condition is stable enough that he can be flown back to Switzerland tonight for further diagnoses,” the Swiss ski team said in a statement. “The exact diagnoses of his injuries we expect Sunday afternoon.”
Kilde has long been considered the next in line of a long list of Norwegian greats, from Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus to Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud.
It was Kilde’s third career World Cup win, with his first two victories coming three seasons ago when he won the season-long super-G title. He celebrated by pointing to the crowd and performing a quick bow.
“It’s a long time since last time,” Kilde said. “Today was a 100 percent day. From top to bottom, I really had a good feeling. Crossing the finish line when you’re bib 6 you should be a little bit careful about putting your arms in air because you know there are a lot of good skiers on top. But today I just had to because I really had a good feeling.”
Franz moved atop the overall standings, seven points ahead of Svindal, who finished seventh. Seven-time defending overall champion Marcel Hirscher, who is 60 points back in fourth, will be expected to reclaim the lead during a stretch of five technical events over a seven-day span beginning Sunday in Alta Badia.
In the downhill standings, Franz and Feuz tied for the lead.
It was Feuz’s first podium result in Val Gardena.
“I’m very happy after trying 10 times but I can’t really celebrate because of my teammate Gisin’s crash,” Feuz said.
A trio of Americans — Bryce Bennett, three-time Saslong winner Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong — finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
“I love this hill,” Nyman said. “To be able to push for the win and be able to compete for the top step is the reason I race.”
Both Nyman and Ganong are returning from knee injuries that kept them out of last season’s Pyeongchang Olympics.
“We’re all showing that we have what it takes now,” Ganong said. “It’s been a year or so of just inconsistencies with the speed team and we’re trying to get into our groove now. The pieces of the team are in a good spot.”
While some racers speculated that Kilde profited from favorable winds during his run, Kilde attributed the victory to his flawless skiing.
“I didn’t have any mistakes. I came into the finish with a one-second lead and I think that speaks for itself a little bit,” he said. “There’s probably things that could have been better for the other guys. When you have a 100 percent run like this, there’s not many of them in your career.”
Austrian racer Matthias Mayer also fell but was not injured. The 2014 Olympic downhill champion nearly did the splits after losing control over a small bump. He came to a stop before hitting the safety netting, got up and skied down.