Svindal takes silver in final race of career

Olympic champion retires with a thrilling Norwegian one-two

Aksel Lund Svindal

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Aksel Lund Svindal

The Local

Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal retired from alpine skiing with a bang Feb. 9 as he won world downhill silver in a thrilling Norwegian one-two led by teammate Kjetil Jansrud.

Jansrud, skiing with his left hand strapped into the pole to protect two fingers he broke training in Kitzbühel, Austria, last month, laid down arguably the run of his life on the Olympia course, shortened to that of a super-G because of overnight snow and later fog.

Jansrud, 33, clocked 1 min. 19.98 sec. for his first world title, Svindal roaring through the finish line just two-hundredths off the pace.

Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr claimed bronze, at 0.33 sec., to go with his super-G silver.

“I’ve been sharing the podium with Aksel quite a few times throughout our career and doing this on his last race at the world champs is an honor. This is a perfect day,” said Jansrud, the 2014 Olympic super-G gold medalist.

Svindal admitted to huge pre-race nerves, saying: “This is more than I expected. I knew I was fast enough to get a medal… but to make it happen on the day is another matter.

“The last couple of days building up to the race, I’ve been nervous,” he said. “But I wanted to give it all I had on my last race. It was a great show.”

Hitting speeds around 80 mph, racers had to negotiate a testing course in limited visibility, the race having twice been postponed in the hope the fog would clear. The rolling terrain propelled skiers 130 feet into the air at times and the top section included a bumpy traverse that saw many go wide on a tight right-turn re-entry.

When Jansrud came through to the finish, wearing bib number six, it was as if he already knew he had done enough for victory. He punched the air, quickly unhitched his right ski, grabbing it and shaking it towards a stadium seemingly full of Norwegian fans.

“Getting the roar from the all Norwegians and Swedes on the stand was one of the most amazing feelings in my career, just almost getting blown over from the sound! It’s a very emotional day and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Jansrud.

Then it was Svindal’s turn. The big screen first flashed up Jansrud sitting on the leader’s chair before cutting to Svindal in the start gate. The already-pumped up crowd went mad, their roars drowning out the cowbells of the Swiss and Austrian fan clubs.

Svindal gave his all but had to be content with finishing second to his close friend in a reverse of the Pyeongchang Olympics downhill result. “It’s a great race, a close race,” beamed Svindal.

His silver medal brings an end to a career that saw him win his first gold medals (downhill, giant slalom) in Åre, Sweden, back in the 2007 world championships. He won another downhill gold in Schladming, Austria, in 2013.

His silver meant Svindal joined compatriot Kjetil Andre Aamodt (seven) and Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli (six) as the only skiers to collect a medal at six world championships. U.S. women’s star Lindsey Vonn also achieved that feat by winning bronze in her farewell downhill race on Feb. 10.

This article was originally published on The Local.

This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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