Another World Cup men's downhill, another podium finish for Canada.
Benjamin Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was second in a World Cup event Saturday, the inaugural event on the course for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Last weekend in Chamonix, France, Calgary's Jan Hudec won downhill gold while Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., was third.
And Thomsen was no slouch, either, posting a solid fifth-place finish in France.
“It's a little bit overwhelming right now. It's awesome,” Thomsen said following Saturday's race. “When I crossed the finish line nobody raised their hands so I thought, `Oh no, I must have had a bad run.’
“But then I saw my name come up. I'm still in shock.”
Guay finished 20th while Hudec was 24th.
Switzerland's Beat Feuz claimed the win, his third of the season, and was honoured to have Russian president Dmitry Medvedev take part in the medal presentation afterwards.
“This will remain an unbelievable moment in my life,” Feuz said. “Winning such an important downhill on my birthday and then being awarded by Medvedev is just incredible.”
Feuz posted a time of two minutes 14.10 seconds down the long and highly technical Rosa Khutor slope. Thomsen finished 0.27 seconds behind for his best career result.
France's Adrien Theaux was for third, 0.59 seconds back.
American Bode Miller was fourth, just 0.02 seconds behind Theaux.
Miller was highly critical of the course set all week, saying there are too many turns to consider it a real downhill. But Feuz disagreed.
“It's a very nice course. It's a complete downhill,” Feuz said. “Maybe it's possible to change a bit on the upper part but that's just a small detail. It's just too bad the Olympics are not next year and I've got to wait two years to come back.”
Thomsen had plenty of reason to be confident going into the race. He was third, eighth and sixth in the three training runs this week.
“In the start gate I got nervous for once,” Thomsen said. “I knew I had some fast training runs and I knew I had to go for it all the way down.
“I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. At the top I was on my hip and slipping inside all over the place. When I got down on to the flats I told myself to put my head down and go for it.”
Guay, the reigning world downhill champion, praised his teammate.
“Ben just continues to impress me,” said Guay. “This course is so gnarly — that was totally impressive skiing. We are all just pumped for him.
“I didn't have the greatest run. It was difficult to get the setup right and figure out how to ski it.”
Guay said Thomsen's determination enabled him to make it on the podium.
“I think it's heart more than anything,” Guay said. “He wants it — he wants it more than most people.
“You know the expression that talent only goes so far? Well, I think that applies here. He works hard and he's willing to do what it takes.”
Johno McBride, Canada's head speed coach, said Thomsen tweaked his approach in Saturday's race.
“Yesterday Benny struggled quite a bit on the top,” said McBride. “I told him if he was somewhat competitive on the top he could be a contender.
“He backed off to make a gate at the top and he skied well from the mid section down to the finish.”
Feuz's retiring Swiss teammate, Didier Cuche, finished 12th and held on to a slim 26-point lead over Austria's Klaus Kroell in the downhill standings. Feuz is 27 points back in third and only two more downhills remaining this season.
With a 100-point boost in the overall standings, Feuz moved up to second, 50 points behind Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, who picked up just two points with a 29th-place finish.
“It's a good message to Ivica today,” Feuz said. “I'm making a lot of people nervous but I'm just having a great time and I've got nothing to lose.”
Thomsen's previous best finish came last weekend with his fifth-place effort in France. Heady stuff, considering a few weeks ago, he risked losing his spot on Canada's World Cup team and being sent home to compete on the minor Nor-Am circuit.
What's more, Thomsen was working construction and landscaping jobs two summers ago to help fund his dream of making it as a ski racer.
“I don't really know where this is coming from,” Thomsen said. “I've been working so hard the last couple of years and it just took me until now to get a full run together.
“Everybody from Canada works so hard to get where we are. We might be a small group on the men's team but we perform well and I'm so happy to be part of that.”
For Theaux, it matched his best result of the season after also finishing third in November in a super-G in Lake Louise, Alta.
With heavy security and the race finish halfway up the mountain, there were only about a thousand fans on hand, and the stands were only half full.
The top Russian finishers were Slovenian-born Alek Glebov in 44th and Andrey Bystrov — who was making his World Cup debut — in 45th.
The race was held in frigid conditions of minus 10 Centigrade, with the sun moving in and out of a mostly cloudy sky, making the icy upper portion of the course extremely difficult.
Super-G world champion Christof Innerhofer of Italy usually excels on ice, but he was unlucky when his one of his skis dislodged after he hit a bump on the top, ending his run prematurely. American racer Erik Fisher also lost a ski and crashed through the safety netting, although he appeared to avoid serious injury.
A super-combined race is scheduled for Sunday, then the women's circuit arrives and begins downhill training on another all-new course Wednesday.