Friday, December 14, 2012
Aksel Lund Svindal takes super-G
VAL GARDENA, Italy -- Not too many skiers can afford to make a big mistake and still be more than a second faster than anyone else.
Lindsey Vonn has done it a few times on the women's circuit. Austrian legend Hermann Maier used to pull it off in his prime. Now Aksel Lund Svindal is doing it, too.
The Norwegian was 1.07 seconds quicker than second-place finisher Matteo Marsaglia in a super-G Friday despite a major mistake three gates from the finish.
"He has the weird ability of still keeping his speed up when he makes mistakes, which is a pretty sweet ability to have," said Kjetil Jansrud, Svindal's teammate from Norway, who finished fourth. "He's owning this sport for the moment."
Svindal clocked 1 minute, 36.95 seconds down the Saslong course under a light snowfall that made for flat light. The victory extended Svindal's lead at the top of the overall World Cup standings.
Marsaglia and Italian teammate Werner Heel rounded out the podium to the delight of the local fans in the Dolomite Range, with Heel 1.12 seconds behind.
It was Svindal's third win in five speed races this season. He finished second in the other two.
"It was a good race. I don't know what else to say. Some days are faster than other days and today was fast," Svindal said. "So far this season is just going great. I had hoped to be good, but I didn't expect to be this good."
Svindal would have won by an even larger margin had he not nearly gone down with his legs in a split within sight of the finish line. But he recovered by the next-to-last gate -- somehow twisting his tall frame back into balance -- and lost only 0.08 of his advantage from the final checkpoint.
"I heard on the radio that everyone was losing time to the Italian guys at the last split," Svindal said. "I definitely didn't want to give anything away at the bottom, so I was charging and I came tight in there ... and then I hit a bump.
"It's just reflexes, really you don't have time to think about it. Definitely not what I planned to do. I had a high heart rate before that but that definitely raised it. I was pretty close to losing my balance."
It was the 19th win of Svindal's World Cup career, moving him past Lasse Kjus into second place among Norwegian skiers, trailing only Kjetil Andre Aamodt's 21 victories.
Svindal also won this super-G in 2009.
The last man to reach the podium in the first three super-Gs of the season was Maier in 2003-04. Maier ended up reaching the podium in all seven super-Gs that season.
"Hermann Maier has (54) World Cup victories. I have 19, so I have a long way to be close to Hermann Maier," Svindal said. "I'm just happy that I'm fast this year. I'm not thinking too much about what other guys have done. I'm more concerned with the guys I'm racing against now."
One of those guys is Marsaglia, who won the previous super-G in Beaver Creek, Colorado, for his first career victory.
"This second place is maybe better than the first place in Beaver Creek," Marsaglia said. "(Alberto) Tomba told me that winning once is easy but it's difficult to win a second time. Well this is nearly a win, so confirming myself feels really good."
Jansrud and Svindal were 1-2 in downhill training on Thursday and will be the favorites for Saturday's downhill on the Saslong.
"We fight with each other all the time in training and we're almost 50-50 when it comes to the best times, so I have to learn what he's doing in the races to be as fast as him," Jansrud said of Svindal. "He's not unbeatable."
Svindal moved 132 points ahead of American rival Ted Ligety in the overall standings, as Ligety finished 25th.
"This is not really a hill that suits me at all," Ligety said. "There's a lot of terrain and it's more about absorbing the terrain than turning, so that's not really my specialty."
Svindal could widen his margin again in the downhill, since Ligety isn't racing, while the American will be favored in Sunday's giant slalom in nearby Alta Badia.
Svindal also holds a 71-point lead on Marsaglia on top of the super-G standings.
"He's annoyingly fast," Ligety said of Svindal. "He doesn't look very good, but he's fast. It's tough to watch that and figure out how to make up more speed. He doesn't do anything seemingly special, he just makes time everywhere."
Heavier snowfalls are expected overnight, which could affect Saturday's race. Organizers have already raised the possibility of using two shortened runs for the downhill.