Svindalrific finish to World Cup | VailDaily.com
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Svindalrific finish to World Cup

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, Overall World Cup winner, celebrates during the Alpine Ski World Cup finals, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Sunday, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Keystone, Arno Balzarini)
AP | KEYSTONE

Call him the comeback kid.With four races left in the World Cup season, Aksel Lund Svindal was third in the overall standings, 103 points behind Benjamin Raich.Then came Svindal’s dominant performance at the World Cup finals.Norway’s Svindal won the downhill, super-G and giant slalom to move ahead of Raich before the final race, Sunday’s slalom. With Svindal’s 97-point lead heading into the final race, only a Raich win and a worse than 15th-place finish by Svindal would have given the globe to Raich.And it nearly happened. Raich won, but before that, Svindal, whose weakest discipline is slalom, sat at the bottom in fifth place, waiting for a large part of the field to come down.Before Raich won the race, and the discipline, Svindal found out the overall title was his. The Norwegian picked up his first overall, as well as a giant slalom title at the age of 24. Oh, he also won two golds at the World Championships.

Not that Svindal came out of nowhere (he was second last year and won the super-G globe), but he certainly is taking the reins after the retirement of Lasse Kjus and Kjetil Andre Aamodt. This guys is Norway skiing – Svindal accounts for 1,268 of his country’s total 1,529 points (that’s men and women).And the overall title couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy. He sticks around after races, win or lose, and chats forever, effortlessly switching languages.Julia Mancuso nearly pulled off a Svindalesque comeback in the finals weeks, but came up a little short. Still Mancuso had a great season, taking third overall, up from eighth last year, and at 23, she’s got plenty of time to progress.For the women’s overall, Nicole Hosp overtook teammate Marlies Schild in the finals, and Austria placed five in the top eight overall.Let’s not forget Anja Paerson’s performance at the World Championships in Are, Sweden. Paerson gave the home country plenty to cheer about with gold in the downhill, super-G and combined, with a bronze in slalom and a silver in the team event. The girl’s got ice in her veins. Young gunsDespite an earlier-than-desired end to the season, Lindsey Kildow had a phenomenal run. After she injured herself training early on, Kildow stormed out of the gates, picking up her obligatory win in Lake Louise, British Columbia along with a pair of second-place finishes. Kildow then won her second downhill in as many years at Val d’Isere, and finished third in another.

Following a second-place finish in a super combined in Austria, Kildow won and took second in a pair of super-G’s in Italy.And when it snows, it blizzards – Kildow got the “big event” monkey off her back, winning a pair of silver medals at worlds in the speed events.So to recap, Kildow, who called it a season after sustaining a knee injury in mid-February, finished with three World Cup wins, eight World Cup podiums (giving her 21 on her career) and 10 total podiums.Let’s hope Kildow’s knee heals up, so next year she and Mancuso can be a potential 1-2 threat for the overall.On the men’s side, Ted Ligety had an-off year in the technical events, but showed great improvement in speed events. In the final downhill of the year, Ligety came in fourth, only 0.02 seconds off third. Do I smell an eventual overall push?And Steven Nyman had a breakthrough season, earning his first World Cup podium and win, taking 25th overall, up from 46th last season.The show continues

The ever-enigmatic Bode Miller had a solid year, finishing fourth and winning the super-G. If he didn’t go for more than a year without finishing a slalom, he might have won the overall. Kudos to coach Phil McNichol and director Jesse Hunt for putting up with Bode’s antics time-and-time again, and also serving as spokesman for those races when he doesn’t earn a podium and leaves the scene.Apparently Miller isn’t the only one who can put on a show. Austria’s Fritz Strobl finished his great career with a musical sendoff. Strobl skied Thursday’s super-G wearing a Motzart costume down the piste. Had it not been for Strobl’s swon song, teammate Rainer Schoenfelder would have won the award for best on-snow costume. Earlier this season, Schoenfelder skied a run naked after losing a bet with his physiotherapist.GorerifficI hope El Nino is at fault. This winter was the spring of my discontent. Not a week went by without some event being canceled. From skiing to ski jumping to aerials to halfpipe to boardercross, a lack of snow put a real damper on winter sports. While I really wish that this year were a climactic anomaly, I fear otherwise.Let’s hope we can put a stop to the warming – I don’t want to cover a grass giant slalom in Ireland or a sand super combined in Dubai.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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