Remarkable comeback as downhill skiing World Cup hits Lake Louise
Germany's Thomas Dressen reacts in the finish area following his run in the men's World Cup downhill ski race at Lake Louise, Alta., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jeff McIntosh)
LAKE LOUISE, ALTA. -- Thomas Dressen's comeback started in the winner's circle.
The 26-year-old German won the season-opening men's World Cup downhill Saturday in his first race in almost a year.
Dressen edged runner-up Dominik Paris of Italy by two hundredths of a second. Swiss teammates Carlo Janka and Beat Feuz tied for third with identical times.
Dressen tore ligaments in his knee and dislocated his left shoulder crashing in last year's downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo.
A year minus a day after he was carried off that mountain on a stretcher, Dressen stood atop the podium in Lake Louise, Alta.
"I was away for a whole year and during the year all the other guys made huge steps," Dressen told The Canadian Press.
"To be honest, some days ago somebody asked me 'what's your target for the race in Lake Louise?' I said 'I hope I can score points."'
The top 30 finishers among 65 starters earned prize money and World Cup points on a descending scale. Dressen claimed 45,000 Swiss francs (CDN $60,000) for the victory.
Ben Thomson of Invermere, B.C., battled both the course and a sore left knee. He crossed the line almost two seconds back of Dressen in a three-way tie for 30th as the top Canadian.
The 32-year-old was limping after the race. Thomsen wondered aloud if he would able to race Sunday's super-G.
"It's not good," Thomsen admitted. "We'll see. I'm going to prep and get ready for it, but it was pretty painful today. I don't think I let that bother me with my run, but it's hard to say if it did or not.
"I skied some sections really good and some sections really bad."
Coming off a breakout 2017-18 season featuring downhill wins in both Kitzbuhel, Austria, and Kvitfjell, Norway, Dressen placed seventh in Lake Louise to start last season before his wreck in Colorado.
"To be honest, this whole season, it doesn't matter what comes," the German said. "I agreed with the coaches it's going to be a comeback season.
"It's not that much about results. Just to get back to where I was. I think it's pretty good right now. Right now, I just try to stay calm and enjoy the moment."
He was quicker over the final flats than Paris, who claimed last year's overall World Cup super-G title.
"I started very good," Paris said. "Maybe the middle section was not the limit of what I can, but it was very good too. At the bottom, I pushed what I can, but Thomas was very fast on the last split.
"He's coming off a knee injury, but I saw him yesterday in the second training run. He was doing well and was fast in the bottom."
Janka, who was the quickest in two training runs, posted the day's top speed of 126.54 kilometres per hour in cold, calm and sunny conditions.
"My pre-season was not that good," Janka said. "I didn't ski much because of my back. Going well in this week with the two trainings. Confidence is going up and with the (ski) set-up, it worked well this week."
Reigning world downhill champion Kjetil Jansrud of Norway was eighth.
Calgary's Jeff Read, Brodie Seger and Cameron Alexander of North Vancouver placed 46th to 48th respectively.
Toronto's Jack Crawford was 57th. Vancouver's Sam Mulligan slid into the safety nets on the bottom section of the course and did not finish.
Sunday's super giant slalom, called super-G, is a hybrid race of downhill and giant slalom elements testing a racer's speed and technique.
Super-G and giant slalom specialist Dustin Cook of Ottawa didn't race Saturday's downhill, but the 30-year-old will compete Sunday.
Also, Italy's Marta Bassino won Saturday's women's giant slalom in Killington, Vt.
American ski star Mikaela Shiffrin took bronze. Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was 29th.
The women's downhill season also starts in Lake Louise next with back-to-back races Friday and Saturday and a super-G on Sunday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2019.