ARE, SWEDEN (Agencies): Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal retired from alpine skiing with a bang Saturday as he won world downhill silver in a thrilling Norwegian one-two led by teammate Kjetil Jansrud.
Jansrud, skiing with his left hand strapped into the pole to protect two fingers he broke training in Kitzbuehel last month, laid down arguably the run of his life on the Olympia course, shortened to that of a super-G because of overnight snow and later fog. The 33-year-old clocked a winning time of 1min 19.98sec for his maiden world title, Svindal roaring through the finish line just two-hundredths off the pace.
Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr claimed bronze, at 0.33sec, to go with his super-G silver. “I’ve been sharing the podium with Aksel for quite a few times throughout our career and doing this on his last race at the world champs is an honour. This is a perfect day,” said Jansrud, the 2014 Olympic super-G gold medallist. “You keep on believing and fighting. After what happened in Kitzbuehel with the hand, I had to fight harder.
“It’s nothing to explain, you fight every day as an alpine skier and sometimes you succeed and sometimes not.” Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, winner at the St Moritz worlds two years ago, was fourth at 0.44sec, with Austrian Matthias Mayer, 2014 Olympic downhill and 2018 super-G gold medallist, fifth (+0.65).
There was high drama until the end, however, as Austrian medal hope Hannes Reichelt opted out of the main bib draw for a lower number (45) in the hope that the track would be clearer, a huge gamble that ultimately failed to pay off.
The crowd gasped as Reichelt, the 2015 world super-G champion, screamed through the first intermediate 0.04sec faster than Jansrud. But the Austrian then made an error, skiing into the rough. Composing himself, he refound his attacking line, but it was not to be as he came in well off the pace in 1:21.87.
- White-knuckle ride –
Hitting speeds around 130km/h, racers had to negotiate a testing course in limited visibility, the race having twice been put back in the hope that the fog would clear sufficiently for fair competition to go ahead. It was deemed so by organisers and what a white-knuckle race it turned out to be.
The rolling terrain propelled skiers 40 metres into the air at times and the top section included a bumpy traverse that saw many go wide on a tight right-turn re-entry.
When Jansrud came through to the finish, wearing bib number six, it was as if he already knew he had done enough for the victory. He punched the air, quickly unhitched his right ski, grabbing it and shaking it vigorously towards a packed stadium seemingly full of Norwegian fans.
“Getting the roar from the all Norwegians and Swedes on the stand was one of the most amazing feelings in my career, just almost getting blown over from the sounds! It’s a very emotional day and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Jansrud.
Then it was the turn of Svindal. The big screen television firstly flashed up Jansrud sitting on the leader’s chair before cutting to Svindal in the start gate. The already-pumped up crowd went mad, their roars drowning out the cowbells of the large Swiss and Austrian fan clubs.
Svindal gave his maximum, but had to be content with finishing second to his close friend in a reverse of the Pyeongchang Olympics downhill result.
His silver medal brings an end to a career that ironically saw him win his first gold medals (downhill, giant slalom) in Are, back in the 2007 world championships. He went on to win another downhill gold in Schladming in 2013.
His silver meant Svindal joined compatriot Kjetil Andre Aamodt (seven) and Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli (six) as the only skiers to collect a medal at six world championships. US women’s star Lindsey Vonn can also achieve that feat in her farewell downhill race on Sunday.