Svindal nabs first victory this season
By Brian Pinelli
Considering that Aksel Lund Svindal was resting and recuperating with a sore leg in South Beach, Miami just a month ago while World Cup races were taking place in Finland, today's super-G victory in Val Gardena had to seem especially sweet. Perhaps similar to cramming last minute for an exam, the tall Norwegian has worked himself back into conditioning and racing shape rather quickly.
"Hard work pays off in sports," said Svindal after the win. "If you work hard in sports, you will be successful, it's very fair like that. Last year, I was really slow here. I worked a lot on the skiing, technique, the flats, gliding and with my ski equipment to get ready for these races."
Svindal looked smooth and fluid navigating most of the course successfully in a time of 1:38.35. Leaving the starthouse 19th, he overtook World Cup leader Carlo Janka by 0.12 seconds for his first win of the season. Italy's Patrick Staudacher finished third, just 0.17 second off the pace.
"You never have the perfect run, but it doesn't get much better than winning," Svindal said. "It was definitely a good run. It's been working out here the whole week. I was fast in downhill training (Wednesday & Thursday) and the equipment; the whole set-up has been going very well. I have two races (in Val Gardena) and two chances to be fast. The first one went well and there's a new one tomorrow (The Saslong Downhill)."
Some of the top racers had problems on the course Friday including Italians Werner Heel and Christof Innerhofer. Innerhofer caught an edge making a left turn, got twisted and fell while Heel lost his balance after an awkward landing and slid while spinning on the snow. Both appeared to be fine. Slovenia's Andrej Jerman also crashed and Switzerland's Didier Cuche skied off the course resulting in a DNF.
Despite the crashes Friday and recent string of injuries leading up to this weekend, Svindal had nothing but praise for the Saslong piste and related course preparation.
"I think it was beautiful," said Svindal. "The track was totally different from the downhill with a lot of turns all the way down. I think with the beautiful snow and course preparation there is no problem for us to make these fast turns. I think it was very well-set."
For the 23-year-old Janka, Friday's second place showing had to feel good, particularly considering that he struggled last weekend in Val d'Isere failing to finish in all three races.
"It was important for my confidence," said Janka. "I'm in good shape again with the first podium in super-G. It's a great day for me."
Janka is now back on top of the overall standings with 540 points, having overtaken Austria's Benjamin Raich, who finished ninth, one second slower than Svindal. With the triumph, the Norwegian moved up to third in the standings with 388 points.
"Svindal is a great skier, especially with the win today," said Janka. "He's skiing well enough to win a lot of races this year. It's a big battle between me and him and maybe Benni."
When queried whether or not he could put today's win out of the mind in order to focus entirely on tomorrow's marquee downhill, Svindal responded, "You shouldn't forget it because it reminds you that you are skiing well and you can beat the rest of the guys in the world. You should keep that in mind when you come to the start tomorrow."
The world's top racers will challenge the Camel Humps and Ciaslat tomorrow as they contest the renowned Saslong downhill. Michael Walchhofer and Didier Cuche were fastest in this week's two training runs and considering Friday's success has to also be considered among the favorites.
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