Aksel Lund Svindal wins Lake Louise SG; Rahlves third, Miller hip checks


Aksel Lund Svindal wins Lake Louise SG; Rahlves third, Miller hip checksAksel Lund Svindal of Norway won his first ever World Cup race on Sunday at Lake Louise, where skiers raced a fast super G through a light but persistent snowfall. Daron Rahlves of California was third, just eight hundredths behind Svindal and one hundredth behind Austria’s Benjamin Raich.

‘I made some small mistakes that I thought would cost me, and that made me go even harder’ said Svindal, who is 22. ‘Today I had good confidence, I looked at the course and I figured it out.’

Snowfall persisted throughout the race, but it was so light that the sun still penetrated the clouds, making visibility not much worse than in the previous day’s downhill, where flat light hampered the efforts of the top skiers. The course, set by Alberto Ghidoni of Italy, had straight sections that forced athletes to pick up speed and carry it into tighter sections, where reduced vertical distance between gates forced them to make quick reactions.

Rahlves redeemed himself after a difficult race on Saturday, where he finished out of the points. ‘It was a tight race’ said Rahlves. ‘Even though Aksel won, I’m happy. This kid’s a good skier, and I’m happy to be on the podium with him.’

Rahlves is fired up for Beaver Creek this coming week, the only homestand the American men get this year.

“Unfortunately we only get one shot to ski in the U.S.,” said Daron Rahlves after finishing third in Sunday’s World Cup super G at Lake Louise. “For us in North Amerian it’s important to stand up and have a good showing, get our people excited about our sport.”

Because this was the first super G of the season, last year’s discipline title winner, Bode Miller, got to wear the red jersey of the points leader. Last March, Miller became the first American man to win that title during an impressive week at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

But today Miller lost his balance, falling on his hip and sliding before popping back up onto his skis. ‘As soon as you do that, your race is over, as far as results are concerned’ said Miller. ‘There’s 35 seconds of flat after that, and no matter how fast you think you are, you just don’t get the speed back.’

‘Bode had some problems up to here’ said Raich, pleased to not have to worry about Miller taking all the early season points, as he did last year. ‘Last year he won three races up to here, but it is very much too early to look to the overall.’

Raich finished second, after failing to finish the downhill on Saturday. That DNF was the first time he failed to finish a World Cup since Feb. 29, 2004, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Since then, he had finished the 38 World Cup races he started, almost always finishing in the top 15.

‘It’s really all about being able to take speed out of steep sections’ said U.S. Ski Team DH/SG coach John McBride, when asked about the general plan of attack for the Lake Louise course. The slope has several steep sections that spill onto relatively flat run-outs.

Since his 2003 comeback from a nearly fatal 2001 motorcycle accident, super G has been Hermann Maier’s best event. It was the first event he won (at Kitzbuehel), and six of the 10 wins he has had since that comeback were in super G.

Maier says he is still skiing in pain, not from the motorcycle accident but from a fall he took while training super G this summer in New Zealand. There, Maier cut too close to a gate during a right-footed turn and somersaulted down the hill. Video from the team’s coaches aired on Austrian national television.

‘I was very, very lucky’ said Maier, who is still in pain, especially in giant slalom, where he is more likely to put pressure on the injury. ‘I risked a little too much in super G training, and I guess I have to fight this all season.’

Immediately following the race, servicemen began shipping skis to Colorado. Many of the super G skis will be used again on Thursday in the next super G at Beaver Creek, Colorado. In years past, the late delivery of equipment to Beaver Creek has forced organizers to reschedule training runs there.

How the Americans did
“I had a good summer with training and came into the season really motivated,” said Rahlves after the race. “Soelden was over before I knew it. It’s really unsatisfying because you put so much into it and you screw up. But it’s not so bad, because you start to think about the important things.”

Aside from Rahlves, the American team had little to celebrate. Miller’s hip-check bumped him back to 18th. Justin Johnson was 36th and Scott Macartney failed to finish, blowing out of the course during the turniest section on a steep pitch.

Coming into the weekend, there was one unassigned start position for the American squad, and Steve Nyman won it on Saturday based on his 14th-place performance in the downhill. But on Sunday, Nyman started 60th, and there at the back of the pack the visibility worsened suddenly. He couldn’t even be seen on the television broadcast. The 2002 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year finished 38th, 3.36 seconds off the pace of Svindal, his big rival at the World Junior Championships in 2002.

One down, five to go
This was the first super G of the young World Cup season. There will be five more: Beaver Creek, Colorado (Dec. 3); Val Gardena, Italy (Dec. 17); Kitzbuehel, Austria (Jan. 20); Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Jan. 29); and Are, Sweden (at the Finals, March 16).

No more monkey business
Guenter Hujara also has announced that he’s taking the hard line on skiers pushing the limit on the rules at the start this season. ‘We will not allow these ‘gliding starts” said Hujara, referring to skiers who slide into the start gate with a little momentum, plant their poles and keep going. ‘There has to be a moment with no movement …’

At Soelden last month, Hujara reminded coaches to tell their athletes not to try pivoting their elbows off of the start shack while pushing out of the start. ‘There will be no more warnings about this’ he said. ‘Only disqualifications.’

What to watch for next
Tonight many of the racers travel to Calgary, to camp out near the airport in advance of early morning flights to Denver, and from there to Beaver Creek, Colorado. There, athletes will compete in each of the sport’s four main disciplines in just four days, beginning with super G on Thursday and followed by downhill (Friday), giant slalom (Saturday) and slalom (Sunday).

While the men are in Beaver Creek, the women will take their place in Lake Louise and compete in speed races on the Canadian track. Those races will include two downhills (Friday and Saturday) and a super G (Sunday). Last year, American Lindsey Kildow won her first World Cup race, a downhill, at the Lake Louise resort.


Men’s super G
Lake Louise, Alberta
Nov. 27, 2005

1. Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 1 minute, 26.04 seconds.
2. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1:26.11.
3. Daron Rahlves, United States, 1:26.12.
4. Ambrosi Hoffmann, Switzerland, 1:26.35.
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 1:26.36.
6. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 1:26.49.
7. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 1:26.66.
8. Hannes Reichelt, Austria, 1:26.75.
9. Patrik Jaerbyn, Sweden, 1:26.83.
10. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 1:26.92.
11. Erik Guay, Canada, 1:26.94.
12. Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 1:27.05.
13. Patrick Staudacher, Italy, 1:27.10.
14. Christoph Gruber, Austria, 1:27.12.
15. Bruno Kernen, Switzerland, 1:27.13.
16. Johann Grugger, Austria, 1:27.27.
17. Lasse Kjus, Norway, 1:27.28.
18. Bode Miller, United States, 1:27.35.
19. Didier Cuche,
Switzerland, 1:27.37.
20. Peter Fill, Italy, 1:27.43.
21. Hermann Maier, Austria, 1:27.54.
(tied) Matthias Lanzinger, Austria, 1:27.54.
23. Tobias Gruenenfelder, Switzerland, 1:27.57.
24. Bjarne Solbakken, Norway, 1:27.59.
25. Stephan Goergl, Austria, 1:27.82.
26. Francois Bourque, Canada, 1:27.84.
27. Alessandro Fattori, Italy, 1:27.92.
28. Werner Heel, Italy, 1:28.12.
29. Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland, 1:28.17.
30. Juerg Gruenenfelder, Switzerland, 1:28.19.

Other North Americans
35. Justin Johnson, USA 1:29.21
38. Steve Nyman, USA 1:29.40
39. Jeff Hume, CAN 1:29.49
DNF: John Kucera, Brad Spence, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, CAN; Scott Macartney, USA.

World Cup super G standings
(After 1 event)

1. Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 100.
2. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 80.
3. Daron Rahlves, United States, 60.
4. Ambrosi Hoffmann, Switzerland, 50.
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 45.
6. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 40.
7. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 36.
8. Hannes Reichelt, Austria, 32.
9. Patrik Jaerbyn, Sweden, 29.
10. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 26.

Others
21. Hermann Maier, Austria, 10.

World Cup overall standings
(After 4 events)

1. Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 164 points.
2. Hermann Maier, Austria, 160.
3. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 136.
4. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 130
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 125.
6. Bode Miller, United States, 102.
7. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 100.
8. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 72.
9. Ambrosi Hoffmann, Switzerland, 68.
10. Bruno Kernen, Switzerland, 61.
11. Daron Rahlves, United States, 60.
(tied) Rainer Schoenfelder, Austria, 60.
13. Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 54.
14. Francois Bourque, Canada, 50.
15. Hannes Reichelt, Austria, 48.1.

THE SCOOP
By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s World Cup super G, Lake Louise, Nov. 27, 2005

1. Svindal, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Hoffmann, Stoeckli/Atomic/Atomic
5. Aamodt, Dynastar/Lange/Tyrolia
6. Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
7. Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8. Reichelt, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Jaerbyn, Fischer/Atomic/Fischer
10. Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

Men’s super G, Lake Louise, Canada, Nov. 27, 2005
It is the third race of the men’s 34 race, 4 combined World Cup schedule… It is the first of six scheduled super G’s. … It is the second of two men’s races scheduled at Lake Louise. … There are also three women’s races scheduled through Dec. 4. …

It is the first career World Cup victory for Aksel Lund Svindal. … He owns one additional podium, in combined at Kitzbuehel Jan. 26, 2003. … He has 14 total World Cup top-10 results. … He has been in the top 11 of all three races this season, having placed 6th in the Lake Louise DH and 11th in the opening GS at Soelden. … He is 22 years of age and finished the 2005 season ranked 11th in SG, 21st overall.

It is the 47th career podium for Benjamin Raich, but it is his career-best SG result, the previous best having been 3rd at Val Gardena Dec. 17, 2004 and fourth four times (in SG), all last season.

It is the 22nd career podium for Daron Rahlves, the last previous coming in the SG at Finals last season (Lenzerheide).

It is the 10th time Canada’s Erik Guay has placed 11th or better. … Bode Miller’s 18th place is the 14th best of 23 scoring results in SG. … It is the 11th career scoring result in all disciplines for Francois Bourque. … It is the worst Cup SG finish for Hermann Maier ever.

The top 11 skiers were all in the same second. … Top 27 within 2 seconds. … Svindal takes the overall lead from Hermann Maier 164-160. … Fritz Strobl is third at 136 and Raich 4th at 130. … Bode Miller is the top American in sixth with 102, behind Kjetil Andre Aamodt’s 125.

Only Austrians or Americans had won a men’s SG since Lasse Kjus Dec. 3 at Val Gardena (13 straight). … Werner Heel, in 28th place, is the top skier starting outside of the first-seed (30) skiers. … Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 844-332 over Norway… The U.S. is third at 219 and the Swiss fourth at 214.

Lensman Schmeckenbecher rues Lake Louise gondola snafuNorway's Svindal edges Raich, Rahlves for first career World Cup win

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