Svindal and Bjoergen boost Norway’s gold haul to 5
AP Sports Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Aksel Lund Svindal’s first Olympic gold medal continued Norway’s dominance in the Olympic super-G on Friday with a clear victory over American Bode Miller on the Whistler course.
The imposing Svindal won in 1 minute, 30.34 seconds, beating Miller and U.S. teammate Andrew Weibrecht into silver and bronze. It was Norway’s fourth gold medal in seven races since the discipline was added to the Olympic program at Calgary in 1988.
“It’s been a lot of work getting to where I need to be for winning races,” said the 27-yera-old Svindal, who took silver in the downhill and is peaking at the right time after a difficult season trying to defend his overall World Cup title.
He said the downhill medal helped: “For sure it took some pressure off, I felt like it was the last thing I was thinking at the start gate, ‘You already have a silver and it can only get better so enjoy this and give it all you have. Don’t hold anything back.'”
Kjetil Andre Aamodt won the event in 1992, 2002 and 2006 and was at the finish doing commentary for Norwegian TV when Svindal raced down the difficult, icy course which caused trouble for some of the other leading contenders.
The 32-year-old Miller was 0.28 seconds behind for silver, his fourth Olympic medal making him the most decorated American Alpine skier in history. He is yet to win a gold.
Andrew Weibrecht was 0.31 behind Svindal in third place. He has never finished better than 10th in a World Cup event.
Marit Bjoergen captured her second gold medal and third overall in Vancouver with victory in the women’s 15-kilometer pursuit, two days after her win in the sprint, to move Norway into second spot on the medal standings with five golds. The Americans lead with six.
Anna Haag of Sweden won a three-way sprint for the silver medal, finishing 8.9 seconds behind Bjoergen, with pre-race favorite Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland getting bronze in a photofinish.
Svindal has two medals in Vancouver after he finished second to Switzerland’s Didier Defago in the downhill race on Sunday, when Miller finished with the bronze.
Svindal started eight places after Miller in the super-G, was behind the American’s first time split but made up ground by the halfway, then increased his lead along the bottom of the course where he hit speeds of almost 115 kph (71 mph).
Defago finished well back, saying he struggled on the course.
“I was a bit more nervous today,” Defago said. “The first part of the course was good. But in the second half I had a few surprises. The snow had really softened up.”
Sweden’s Patrik Jaerbyn was among the men who crashed in the super-G, when he caught a gate near the end of his run and was flipped in the air before landing heavily on his back.
Svindal was fifth in the Super G at Turin four years ago, where Norway had a disappointing Olympics and finished with only two gold medals overall. Since then, Svindal topped the World Cup rankings in the super-G in 2008-09, was third at last year’s world championships and was second in the World Cup standings this year.
Other medals on offer Friday included men’s and women’s skeleton.
Latvia’s Martins Dukurs, using a sled designed by his father, has a slight lead over Canadian Jon Montgomery going into the final runs of the men’s skeleton. Britain’s Amy Williams has a surprising lead going into the final runs in the women’s race.
Elsewhere, gold-medal contender Beat Hefti of Switzerland withdrew from the two-man bobsled competition because of a concussion sustained during a crash in practice.
Swiss driver Hefti, the 2006 Turin bronze medalist and current World Cup champion, also cut his leg when his sled flipped on Wednesday night, one of eight crashes in the first training session on the Whistler Sliding Centre course where a 21-year-old Georgian luger died in a training session hours before the opening ceremony.
The International Ski Federation rejected a protest from Austria and ruled that Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann, who won the normal hill competition, would be allowed to keep using his modified ski bindings for the large hill competition.
“We didn’t expect anything else,” said Ammann. “We knew it was within the regulations. The system has been used within the last two years and other guys have used it from Austria as well.”
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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.