Svindal to sit out World Cup opening
Following a crash in January, the downhill skier struggles to recover from a knee injury in time for the new season
Jo Christian Weldingh
The Norwegian American
Last season ended abruptly for Norway’s best downhill skier, Aksel Lund Svindal, after a dramatic fall in the World Cup race in Kitzbühel, Austria, on January 23. After a curve midway through the race, 33-year-old Svindal was thrown off the course when he hit a bump that he couldn’t see because of the poor weather conditions. The crash caused him to rupture his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and damage a meniscus in his right knee.
Out of the 30 athletes who started the race that day, Svindal was just one of three skiers who faced a serious crash. While Hannes Reichelt of Austria was able to recover from a bruised bone in his knee, Austrian Georg Streitberger also endured a season-ending injury and required knee surgery. The remainder of the day’s competition was cancelled due to the poor visibility.
One of the best alpine skiers of all time and Norway’s most popular downhill skier throughout the last decade, Svindal has 11 medals in the Olympics Games and World Championships—six of them gold—and two overall World Cup titles from 2007 and 2009.
This isn’t the first serious injury for the Norwegian. He first crashed at the end of 2007 and had to take several months to recover that winter before returning to the top to take his next World Cup title. In 2014, Svindal tore his Achilles tendon and was forced to take a yearlong break from the World Cup.
When he returned for the 2015/16 season, Svindal seemed to have recovered fully, however, possibly performing better than ever before in his career. When the injury happened, he had won seven races so far and was leading the World Cup with 107 points in the overall standings.
Svindal was first back training on skis in August, but he won’t be ready to compete when the new World Cup season starts in Sölden, Austria, on Oct. 21. He is not yet ready to train with his teammates. He will travel with the team to Sölden, however, and also plans to join the team in Colorado this November for training.
“I don’t know when I’ll be competing again. The World Cup opening in Sölden is way too early and I never really considered racing there. I’m crossing my fingers for Lake Louise in late November,” Svindal said to the Norwegian press.
Injuries like the ones he suffered usually take ten months to heal, which means Lake Louise is within reach. While Svindal remains optimistic and believes it is all a matter of time, however, his doctors are hesitant to guarantee recovery.
According to Olympiatoppen doctor Lars Engebretsen, Svindal’s injury has caused him to lose much of the natural shock absorption is his knee and continuing to compete will be a risk to his health. “There are incredibly few who have managed to come back after an injury like this,” he said.
Svindal has nevertheless chosen to continue his skiing career and is confident he will make it back to the starting line at some point this season. If he succeeds, it would be his third comeback from a significant injury.
“Physically I am good. What can be trained is doing well. The strength is there—the muscles are good. I may not be as strong as at my best, but I’m not far away. It’s what’s inside the knee joint and what I cannot control myself that is worse. This is not surprising. I was told that this may take a long time,” he told Aftenposten.
If he has a chance to return to the top this season, he knows he will need to progress more in the coming month than he did in September. “Right know, every week is worth its own weight in gold,” he said.
Even though Svindal is out for now, Norway continues to have one of the strongest teams in the World Cup. Last season, 22-year-old wonderkid Henrik Kristoffersen ended second overall—ranked first in the slalom and third in the giant slalom—with Kjetil Jansrud, 31, in fourth and 24-year-old Aleksander Aamonft Kilde in seventh with the top spot in the super-G. Svindal has just over a month left to recover if he plans to join his teammates on the starting line in Lake Louise on November 26.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.