Austria's Walchhofer takes first training run in Val Gardena
Val Gardena, Italy
Last season's Saslong downhill champion, Michael Walchhofer was fastest in Wednesday's first training on a course that racers said was in good condition, albeit a bit slow. The reigning World Cup downhill champion posted the fastest time of the day, 2:00.55.
"The Saslong was in excellent condition," said Walchhofer, who also won last weekend's super-G in Val d'Isère. "You couldn't ask for better snow conditions. The Camel Humps didn't cause any problems."
Walchhofer has traditionally skied very well on the Italian piste. In addition to his two victories, the powerful Austrian has also finished second four times since 2001.
Come Saturday's downhill, Merano, Italy's Werner Heel will be one of the crowd favorites. The Italian was victorious in last year's super-G and finished seventh in the opening training run, 0.83 seconds behind Walchhofer.
"It was very positive and I'm happy with my performance today," said Heel after his run. "We have nice jumps and a nice course. I hope tomorrow is a little bit faster and the snow is not so aggressive."
Defending overall World Cup champion, Aksel Lund Svindal was closest to Walchhofer's time crossing the finish 0.28 seconds off the pace.
"The piste was very nice, but also very easy to ski," said Svindal. "That was due mainly to the fantastic snow conditions."
Sweden's Hans Olsson was third Wednesday 0.55 behind Walchhofer.
World Cup downhill leader, Didier Cuche of Switzerland skied despite having suffered a broken rib during training in Val d'Isère last week. Cuche skipped Sunday's GS in France and underwent an MRI exam on Monday. It was confirmed that the Swiss skier broke his fifth rib on the left side. The veteran racer appeared to be alright, managing to finish sixth on the day.
Bode Miller also took part in the opening training run despite a recent ankle sprain suffered while playing volleyball with the U.S. team this past Saturday in Val d'Isère. The American racer finished the downhill training in 20th place.
Downhill training resumes tomorrow on the 839-meter Saslong course at 12:15 local time/CET.
- Brian Pinelli
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