KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal is skipping his last race at the Olympics because of allergies he thinks are “from the concrete that’s in the air.”
After training Monday, the Norwegian decided not to enter Wednesday’s giant slalom. He had not been planning to enter next Saturday night’s slalom, the final Alpine race of the Sochi Games.
“There’s a lot of athletes that have some kind of allergy against something here,” Svindal told The Associated Press. “I think it’s something from the concrete that’s in the air, like some fine dust. When I got here, I felt it, too. The doctors knew exactly what it was, because they gave me allergy medicine right away. It helps, but it’s kind of draining.”
Svindal won three medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games and was expected to be a star in Sochi. But he failed to win a medal in three races this time, finishing fourth in the downhill, eighth in the super-combined and seventh in the super-G on Sunday as the defending champion.
“It was a tough decision. But I think it’s been in the back of my mind for some days,” Svindal said. “The fact is, even though I was close to medals, (these were) actually the worst races I did this year. That’s how stable the season has been.
“When that happens, I think you need to analyze and see what’s different,” Svindal added. “The only thing I can find that’s different is that I have to use medicines because of allergy.”
Claus Ryste, Norway’s Alpine sports director, said he’s had problems with allergies, adding he’s been bothered by itchy eyes, a runny nose and a bad throat and hasn’t been sleeping well.
“You’re not very sick, but it steals your energy,” Ryste said.
Svindal, the overall World Cup champion in 2007 and 2009, is one of Alpine skiing’s biggest stars.
In Sochi, though, he took a back seat to Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud, who won a gold medal in the super-G and a bronze in the downhill.
“Kjetil skied so good that would’ve been a tough one anyway,” Svindal said of the super-G. “He made no mistakes top to bottom. We’ll never know.”
Svindal’s last podium result in a giant slalom was a tie for first place in Adelboden, Switzerland, in January 2011. He has finished in the top 10 only once in a giant slalom this season, coming in fourth in the opening race in Soelden, Austria, in October.
“In super-G and downhill, he’s No. 1 on the World Cup ranking and he was the favorite by far,” Ryste said. “In GS, he’s not. That helps a bit. But after we discussed, the coaches, me and Aksel, we came to the decision this is the right thing to do. It was hard, this is the Olympics and we worked for it for four years.”
Svindal said he would fly to central Europe then up to Norway for his home World Cup stop in Kvitfjell the weekend after the games end.
“It’s the point of no return,” coach Havard Tjorhom told The Associated Press. “He’s not feeling too good. ... This way, he’ll try to get better and have some energy left for the rest of the World Cup season.”