Svindal returns to Beaver Creek ready for more
BEAVER CREEK — If Austria’s Hermann Maier is a walking history of Birds of Prey’s early days, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal certainly qualifies as Volume II.
Turning 36 within a month, the Norwegian legend has had a career in itself at Beaver Creek, and he’s back this year for more this week at the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup.
With six career wins here, he is tied with American Ted Ligety and Austrian Marcel Hirscher for most victories among active ski racers. (Maier holds the all-time mark with eight, including a ridiculous seven wins in a row.)
Svindal is the two-time defending downhill champ at Birds of Prey with wins in 2015 and 2017. The defending Olympic downhill champion as well, Svindal, despite a gimpy knee from 17 years on the white circus, seems intent on continuing his winning ways.
“I like the resort. I like the hill,” Svindal said. “I think it’s one of coolest downhill courses we have because it basically has everything.”
What’s interesting is that Svindal’s career nearly came to a screeching halt here 11 years ago.
Svindal started the 2007-08 season on a roll with a giant-slalom win in Soelden, Austria, and another victory in the Lake Louise, Alberta, super-G. And then he went off the Golden Eagle Jump in a training run here.
Svindal crashed into the safety netting, ending up with broken bones in his face and a 6-inch gash, running from his stomach to his groin as one of his skis sliced into his body.
He returned to Beaver Creek one year later, winning the downhill and the super-G on back-to-back days.
Maybe, in retrospect, all should have known that Beaver Creek would be a special place for Svindal. In the 2006 super-combined, American Bode Miller, the final racer of the day, had a nearly 2-second lead, going into the slalom. In traditional Bode fashion, he skied out. That gave Svindal his first win here.
He has 13 podiums and 28 top 10 finishes in his career here, Svindal was expected to miss the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He showed up, and without much training, finish sixth in both downhill and super-G.
With 35 career wins in tow, another gold medal at the 2018 Olympics and a knee injury that limited his ability to practice, there were rumblings that Svindal might call it a career.
“I was not feeling very good this spring,” Svindal said. “I was feeling OK, but my knee wasn’t very good. Then it started getting better in the summer. Why not go to ski camp and see what happens?”
Slowly, but surely, things started looking up.
“The difference that I made was that in the spring, I couldn’t do much, so all I did was biking, two-and-a-half months of biking,” he said. “I was able to lift once the swelling went down. Then I started skiing. I followed the steps as my knee allowed me to do.”
And the results have followed. Last weekend in Lake Louise, he was eighth in the downhill and fifth in the super-G.
He seems primed to add another chapter to his history at Beaver Creek this week.