Svindal a Birds of Prey favorite again at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Svindal a Birds of Prey favorite again at Beaver Creek

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal leaves the snow after passing the Red Tail Jump on the Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course during the first day of training on Wednesday in Beaver Creek. After missing almost the entire season last year, Svindal is back atop the World Cup points standings.
Justin Q. McCarty | Special to the Daily |

BEAVER CREEK — It’s like Aksel Lund Svindal was never gone.

After missing an entire World Cup season after injuring his Achilles, the Norwegian downhill star is blazed back onto the race scene with super-G and downhill wins at Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend. Despite his claims that he hoped to be a dark horse contender, he is undoubtedly one of the favorites for this weekend’s Birds of Prey.

After a surgery and months of rehabilitation, Svindal said he was surprised by his results.

“It’s a great start to the season. It’s more than I expected. I knew I could be fast, but there’s a big difference between being fast and actually winning races, so I’m very happy,” he said of his wins. “I’m trying to maintain that momentum into these races.”

Svindal is looking to stay back on top again this season. After his heel injury, he only made an appearance for two races at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek last year. The Championships were a chance to be a true underdog, he claimed.

“I like to be the underdog if I can, but that’s a hard thing if you win races. That’s kind of why I wanted to come back here last year for the World Champs. No one expected me to even ski the World Championships, and that’s the only time I can be a real underdog. People said, ‘Are you really healthy?’ And I said, ‘Eh, not really, but I’ll give it a try,’” he said.

‘EASE INTO BEAVER CREEK’

Svindal skied somewhat conservatively at Wednesday’s downhill training. In his experience, that’s the way to approach the Birds of Prey course, he said.

“Beaver Creek is a different course (thank Lake Louise). The speeds are slower, but it’s more difficult,” he said. “After all this time, I know back from 2007 that you don’t get any World Cup points by nailing the first training run at Beaver Creek. That will bite you real fast in the ass if you don’t watch out. Somehow you have to ease into Beaver Creek a little bit.”

To come out on top at Beaver Creek, Svindal will have to contend with his friend, teammate, training partner and rival Kjetil Jansrud. In fact, Jansrud took the fastest time on Wednesday’s training run, and Svindal considers him his biggest competitor.

“Our trainings are high quality because no one wants to be second or third, with (teammate Aleksander Aamodt Kilde) even. You step off the throttle just a touch and you’re several tenths behind. I’ll be watching Jansrud for sure,” Svindal said. “Obviously he wants to win races because he knows he can. However, it’s all part of the game — to see who can be good, but also to see who has the margins on their side on race day.”

Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.