Norwegian skiing has some new Attacking Vikings
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia – Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud have put the attack back into The Attacking Vikings.
Svindal won his third medal of these Olympics with a bronze in Tuesday’s giant slalom, and Norwegian teammate Jansrud was the surprise runner-up for the first major medal of his career.
Recently retired Norwegian standouts Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus were the original Attacking Vikings – winning 13 medals between them over five Olympics, the last at the 2006 Turin Games.
The current crop of Norwegian skiers revived the Attacking Vikings label this season. For these games, they made black baseball caps featuring the nickname.
“We’re doing our best, trying to be fast,” Svindal said. “We’re a small team, but in GS right now we’re pretty strong.”
While he has never won a World Cup race, the 24-year-old Jansrud finished second and third in the last two giant slaloms before the Vancouver Games. Jansrud jumped up from 11th after the opening run with the fastest second leg.
“Being so far behind, it felt I was too far out,” Jansrud said. “I said to myself, ‘I’ll try to ski fast.’ When you’re that far off a medal, it’s still the Olympic Games and you have to have respect as an athlete to try and make your very best and see how it ends.”
The 27-year-old Svindal is the fifth skier to win three Alpine medals in a single Olympics. Aamodt got his three – two silvers, one bronze – on home snow at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, and is the all-time Alpine leader with eight career medals.
“I’m a fan of history but I don’t really do the counting myself,” Svindal said. “It’s all about the moments and each medal is special. You guys can do the counting and tell me how it looks.”
Despite an Olympic team that boasts only six skiers – five men and one woman – Norway’s four Alpine medals stand second only to the United States’ eight.
The two other Norwegians in the giant slalom – Truls Ove Karlsen and Leif Kristian Haugen – placed 21st and 28th.
At 34, Karlsen is the team’s leader. He saw Jansrud’s medal coming.
“He was on the podium the last two races and we all know he’s probably the best giant slalom skier in the world when he has his perfect run,” Karlsen said. “We know what he can do and I’m not really surprised, I’m just really happy for him.”
Haugen, the squad’s rookie at 22, is a sophomore at Denver University. He wasn’t even slated to race the World Cup circuit this season, but impressed coaches during summer training and qualified for the second run in his first four races on the elite tour.
“We’re really happy that he’s had a good season,” Karlsen said. “We need some more skiers on the team.”
After the games, Haugen will head back to Colorado for final exams. Despite his time away skiing, he’s hoping to graduate in four years, then concentrate on the 2014 Sochi Games.
“Hopefully I’ll be close to my prime then and get some good results,” Haugen said. “All of us are fighting back to that attacking spirit again. You see it today.”
The lone Norwegian female skier at the games is Mona Loeseth, an 18-year-old with two slightly older sisters who normally compete on the World Cup circuit but are not at the games.
Loeseth finished 13th in super-combined and 21st in super-G, but her best events – giant slalom and slalom – are still to come.
Svindal isn’t sure if he’ll race the final men’s event, Saturday’s slalom.
“I’m definitely not thinking about it right now,” he said. “I’m enjoying this moment, then we’ll see what the next days bring.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.