Having been postponed for two days due to adverse weather, the world’s best downhill skiers were finally able to take to the slopes of whistler on Day 4, with Didier Defago stealing the show.
Cowbells echoed loudly around Whistler’s mountains, as Swiss fans celebrated Didier Defago’s thrilling victory in the men’s downhill – the first time the country has topped the podium in men’s alpine skiing for 22 years. Despite that long medal drought, Swiss supporters had packed into the Whistler Creekside venue for one of the Olympic Winter Games’ blue riband events, which had been postponed for two days due to adverse weather conditions in the mountains. And their dedication did not go unrewarded, as Defago became the oldest ever winner of the men’s downhill, securing victory by the narrowest of margins in a highly entertaining event.
United States skier Bode Miller had taken an early lead with a blisteringly quick time of 1:54.40, before Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal moved into the gold medal position, pipping Miller’s time by just 0.02 seconds. Veteran star Didier Cuche and wonderkid Carlo Janka had been expected to lead the challenge for Switzerland, but both were eclipsed by 32-year-old Defago, who hurtled down the Dave Murray Run in a spectacular time of 1:54.31.
The difference between Defago and Miller’s time was just 0.09 seconds, meaning the podium finishers were separated by the smallest margin ever in the history of the men’s downhill at the Olympic Winter Games. No matter how close the margins, it was Switzerland’s first gold medal in men’s alpine skiing since Pirmin Zurbriggen topped the podium in the men’s downhill at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games, and gave Swiss fans more reason than ever to chime their huge cowbells.
“I had to wait a long time for this medal,” said Defago afterwards. “I always believed I would get a medal in a big race. I kept believing and it happened.”