BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Aksel Lund Svindal started first and the hard-charging Norwegian put down such a blistering run that no one could catch him as he captured a World Cup downhill race Saturday.
Svindal took a calculated risk by picking the No. 1 spot the night before, believing the snow conditions might hold up better. He finished in a time of one minute 40.46 seconds to beat Switzerland’s Beat Feuz by 0.15 seconds. Thomas Dressen finished third to give Germany its first World Cup men’s downhill podium spot since 2004.
Thompson qualifies for first Olympics
Although the Canadians were off the pace with Vancouver’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis as the top Canuck in 15th (1:41.73), the highlight was Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., finishing in 23rd, allowing him to reach the pinnacle of Olympic qualification. Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was 44th, Toronto’s Jack Crawford came in 53rd, Calgary’s Tyler Werry was 66th.
The 34-year-old Svindal sat in the leader’s box as racer after racer couldn’t match his line. The day before in the super-G, the constantly changing light made things tricky. On Saturday, the course was bathed in sun. The farther back skiers started, though, the more they had to deal with choppier conditions.
“I was confident it was a good run,” Svindal said. “The top speed is still there. Every once in a while I can put down a good run.”
Svindal has been working his way back from knee surgery since January. This provides more proof he is heading in the right direction. Not that anyone on the circuit wanted to hear that. Svindal has been limited in his training the last few years due to knee injuries — along with a torn Achilles tendon — but always manages to rebound.
“He’s phenomenal. I don’t understand how he’s doing this stuff — with less training and everything,” Dressen said. “He must have such a good feeling for his skis. He’s just a race horse. I don’t know how he’s doing it. I need to ask him about it.”
Sorry, top secret.
Really, though, it’s all about Svindal’s miles on skis. He’s had so many training runs over his career that he relies on experience. Especially here, on a course he knows so well.
Svindal ‘the man to beat’
He defended his downhill crown from 2015 in earning his sixth win on the Birds of Prey hill. The races were cancelled last season because of warm temperatures.
Svindal plans to skip the giant slalom on Sunday to save wear on his knees.
“I can only ski a certain amount of days and a certain amount of runs,” Svindal said. “When the other guys go giant slalom training, I’m sitting on the spinning bike.”
It’s all part of the grand plan to keep him healthy for the Pyeongchang Olympics, where he will be one of the favourites.
“Svindal is every time the man to beat,” said Italian racer Christof Innerhofer, who started 27th and roared to fourth place. “He’s the best.”
It was another difficult day for the Americans, with no racers finishing in the top 20. One of their top downhillers, Steven Nyman, only foreran the course with his balky knee still healing.
“This is a big topic right now,” said Bryce Bennett, who led the U.S. with a 21st-place finish. “I know our coaches are pretty involved with it and like, ‘Where are the results?’ … I think everyone is capable of speed. I’m not really worried about it. Seems like a lot of people are. Once someone puts one down, it’s going to be game on.”
– The Associated Press. Photo: Malcolm Carmichael/ACA
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