Svindal spectacular in winning World DH title
Strength, skis, skills and smarts served Aksel Lund Svindal well as he overran the field down a awkward Planai course for an impressive gold medal in the World Championship downhill.
S's were also served up by the Americans, who all landed on theirs before leaving the field of play.
The track was icy, nasty and was blanketed by a light snowfall. Coupled with a grey sky visibility a nothing by a memory. It did not invite grace. Plenty of racers were bounced off their intended line with most attempting the pure aggression required in a title race where just three placings count paying for it.
“It is important to never lose your head and be smart,” said Svindal. “It is important to be fast all the way down.”
Italian Dominik Paris was the only skier who really challenged the Norwegian, claiming the silver medal nearly a half second out. The bronze medal featured the second French surprise of the championships with David Poisson the only other man to come within a second of Svindal. Klaus Kroell, the hometown boy and the clear hope of hosting Austria, skied stiffly and bounced down the track to a fourth place finish more than a second and a third off the pace.
It was a brutally demanding course made all the more difficult by the lack of contrast. It was hard to see the crests of the multiple rolls and impossible to see the rough spots. There was no place on course that failed to demand attention or allow rest and the most savage of the demands came at the very end where the slope drops into the stadium.
Svindal was one of a handful who managed to attack and still maintain clean turns. He said he took risks at every opportunity, but he remained balanced over the rolls and clung tenaciously to the ideal line. What separated him from the field, however, was a subtle move just above the final pitch, drifting sideways at the entry point to gain a better line to the finish. Swiss great Didier Cuche called it, “an amazing run.”
“Sviindal was too strong for me,” said Paris.
“I have nothing more,” said Svindal. “I took risks top to bottom and tried to stay in the line. And I tried to work out this summer.”
The French, with one men's speed podium for the entire World Cup season, got its second medal at the World Championships.
"This is really perfect," said Poisson. "Gauthier (SG silver medalist DeTessiere) started the weekk well for us. ... I am proud of my run. ... I went to my limits."
The day was pitiful for the US camp. Marco Sullivan was in contention until going down on his side and sliding into the nets. Travis Ganong didn't get past the fourth gate to get any intermediate clocking before hitting his hip to the snow and sliding off course. Steven Nyman was battling his way when he, too, dropped onto his butt and needed a 60mph recovery to stay on course. Andrew Weibrecht was so exhausted he fell in the finish area and slid into the padding. None of them appeared badly injured.
The Canadians fared better, but were a huge disappointment back home after having collected the two previous gold medals in world downhill competition. Jan Hudec led the way in ninth.
The strenuous effort required by the course caught many, including Svindal, off guard. The only full length training had taken place on much softer snow, and the second test was on a shortened track in full sun.
"I think we all agree that the course here is actually tougher than we thought," Svindal said. "It wasn't as smooth as we expected. That's kind of how I felt today, (you had to) fight for every hundredths of a second."
If the Planai course can be compared to any World Cup hill, the most frequently mentioned would be Bormio. The shared characteristics include a lack of gliding and a relentless set of turns, bumps and jumps. It wears the competitor down. The kicker at Schladming is that the toughest, and steepest portion of the track is the very end when the legs are screaming and the concentration waning.
"It's a tough, challenging hill," said US coach Sasha Rearick. "Today was a very physical battle." His team was in less than perfect condition. "Weibrecht was sick all of December," Rearick said. "He's skiing fantastic for about a minute ten. Marco (Sullivan) for sure is recovering from back injury. His back is healthy now, but he's taking steps. Nyman was charging hard was over his skis and did the best he could do."
Of those entered, Ganong is the only one completely healthy and he booted out high on the course before conditioning could come into play. "That was just bad luck," said Rearick. "But we definitely have more work to do."
"Our skiing is really good," said Nyman. "I heard I was fast until I had that little speed check. Marco was fast and Andrew was fairly fast."
Sullivan was still pondering what had happened when he went down. "I'm not sure exactly what happened. I leaned it in a little bit, my ski kicked out and the next thing I saw the fence coming. Luckily it wasn't in a high risk area. It's tough to prep for this race for a while and to have it go south like that, it's never a good feeling. To see the rest of the guys have similar struggles is a just a bummer." -hm
By Hank McKee
Men's World Championship Downhill, Schladming, Austria, Feb. 9, 2013
1 Svindal, Head/Head/Head
2 Paris, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
3 Poisson, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4 Kroell, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5 Romar, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6 Zurbriggen, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
7 Kueng, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8 Defago, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
9 Hudec, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
10 Theaux, Salomon/Salomon/unknown
Men's World Championship Downhill, Schladming, Austria, Feb. 9, 2013. ... It is the fourth race of the 42nd FIS World Ski Championships. ... It is the 65th world downhill title race, the 33rd for men. ... Canadian Erik Guay is the defending champion and Canadians have won the last two titles.
It is the second medal in two races at these World Championships for Aksel Lund Svindal. ... It is his fifth World Championship gold medal and his eighth total championship medal. ... It is his second gold medal in DH, the other from Are (2007). ... He also owns three Olympic medals. ... It is his fifth victory of the season and second in downhill.
It is the first career World Championship medal for Dominik Paris and just his second result in a championship race having placed 20th in dh at Garmisch (2011). ... It is his third podium placing of the season, the other two wins, both in DH, at Bormio and Kitzbuehel.
It is the first World Championship medal for David Poisson in four career title races. ... He has never reached the spodium in a World Cup or Olympic race, either, topping out with two fourth place finishes - one at Bormio Dec. 29, 2009 and at Kitzbuehel Jan. 26.
It is the third best World Championship result for Jan Hudec and fourth top 10 (including a silver medal in DH at Are in 2007). ... It is the best of four World Championship results for Benjamin Thomsen. ... It is the fourth best of five World Championship results for Manuel Osborne-Paradis. ... It is a career best World Championship result for Andrew Weibrecht. ... He also owns a bronze medal from the 2010 Olympics. ... It is the fifth best of five World Championship results for Steven Nyman.
NOR - 2 - (gold, silver)
SLO - 2 - (gold, silver)
USA - 2 - (gold, bronze)
FRA - 2 - (silver, bronze)
GER - 1 - (gold)
ITA - 1 - (silver)
SUI - 1 - (silver)
AUT - 1 - (bronze)
FIS World Ski Championships
Feb. 9, 2013
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|1||17||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||2:01.32||0.00|
|33||35||491151||DE LA CUESTA Paul||1988||SPA||2:08.11||76.68|
|45||46||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG||2:13.83||141.27|
|46||55||30283||FREEMAN CRESPO Ignacio||1992||ARG||2:14.75||151.66|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|4||400281||VAN HEEK Marvin||1991||NED|