Svindal wins downhill gold
ARE, Sweden ” Aksel Lund Svindal became the first Norwegian to win the downhill gold medal at the world championships on Sunday.
Jan Hudec of Canada captured the silver medal. Patrik Jaerbyn of Sweden took the bronze, becoming at 37 the oldest skier to medal at the world championships.
Defending champion Bode Miller was unable to hold an early lead and finished seventh.
Svindal, who won the downhill at Are, Sweden, at the World Cup finals last season, hurtled down the 9,586-foot Olympia course in 1 minute, 44.68 seconds to win his first major championship title.
“I wasn’t the favorite,” Svindal said. “It was a good race though I was a little bit lucky. It’s a good day for Aksel and for Norway.
“I need a few minutes of silence to realize what I’ve done.”
In fact, it was the best downhill result by a Norwegian man at either the Olympics or world championships. Helen Marken won the women’s Olympic downhill at Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
“I knew I could be in the fight for the medals but I didn’t think I would win in,” Svindal said. “The fact that no other Norwegian won the downhill before, I think that’s just a matter of bad luck actually. Just look at how many medals they got. They were for sure good enough skiers to win downhills at the world championships.”
Former teammate Kjetil Andre Aamodt collected an all-time record eight Olympic medals as well as a record 12 world championships medals from 1991-2003. Lasse Kjus, a two-time winner of the overall World Cup title, won 11 world championship and five Olympic medals.
Miller was leading by .01 at the top split but went through some fog that briefly shrouded part of the course and nearly fell. Finishing seventh in 1:45.95, Miller shook his head in the finish area.
“There are four or five guys that can win on this course and he’s one of them,” Miller said of Svindal. “Today if you didn’t have a pretty clear course, you couldn’t ski aggressively.”
Hudec finished in 1:45.40 for his first major career podium. It was also the best downhill result at a worlds for Canada’s men. Hudec had never finished in the top three of a World Cup race. The best result by a Canadian man in the downhill at worlds was Edi Podivinsky’s third-place finish at the Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, which also counted as world championships.
Hudec ” who was born in Czechoslovakia but left with his parents when he was only 10 months old ” has had three knee operations in the past three seasons.
“This is basically my first full season on the World Cup tour,” Hudec said.
Jaerbyn won the bronze in 1:45.65 and also gave Sweden its first-ever podium in downhill at a world championship. Sweden’s previous best result at worlds in downhill was from Pernilla Wiberg, who took bronze in Sestriere in 1997.
“This is so big for me,” Jaerbyn said. He has never won a World Cup race but took a silver in the super-G at the worlds 11 years ago in Sierra Nevada, Spain, in 1996.
Previously, the oldest man to medal at worlds was Switzerland’s Bruno Kernen who was 34 when he finished third in the super-G on Tuesday.
It marked the first time since 1997 at Sestriere that an Austrian man had not climbed the downhill podium at the world championships.
The best Austrian result was an eighth-place finish by Mario Scheiber, who finished in 1:45.99.
France’s Antoine Deneriaz, the surprise downhill winner at the Olympics last season, finished 33rd, 3.14 off the winning pace.
“I’m so slow. I wasn’t very fluid. I was expecting to be at least near the others,” Deneriaz said. “I really thought I could re-create another big surprise.”
The start of the race was delayed 15 minutes because of fog and it was interrupted after 11 racers because more had blown in.