Americans finish out of Top 3 again

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- When Carlo Janka zoomed into the finish area Sunday, skis spraying a cloud of snow to signal his third consecutive World Cup victory, the last man to compile that long a winning streak quickly came over and showed his respect.

As Janka began to celebrate, reigning overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal raised a hand and bowed, then bowed again. The message was clear: "We're not worthy."

Right now, no one is. Janka simply can't be beaten. The 23-year-old Swiss skier wrapped up a 3-for-3 weekend by winning a giant slalom Sunday, becoming the first man to take three World Cup races in a row since Svindal did it more than 2 years ago.

"Janka's skiing has been pretty incredible. It's crazy to see how well he did here," said Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah, who was fourth in the GS. "He's definitely a strong kid. He doesn't do anything crazy special with his skiing. He just doesn't make mistakes."

Indeed, Janka's upper body was steady as can be through the turns, and his skis were always in contact with the slope. He finished two runs down the Birds of Prey course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 29.44 seconds.

"It looked, like, really easy, how he did it," Swiss coach Sepp Brunner said.

Janka added Sunday's triumph to those in super combined Friday and downhill on Saturday.

"Just fantastic," Janka said.

When the 23-year-old arrived at Beaver Creek this week, he owned a career total of two World Cup race wins. Asked to explain his results in Colorado, he said: "I'm just skiing. I'm in good shape. I had a great run. I don't know why."

Austria's Benjamin Raich was next Sunday, 0.47 seconds behind, and Norway's Svindal came in third, 0.93 back. Ligety was more than a second slower than Janka, while his U.S. teammate Bode Miller skied out on the first run.

Janka led after Sunday's first GS run, which was contested in heavy snowfall that made it tough to see. The second run came under clouds, but no snow, and Janka was superb again.

"A young guy, skiing that fast -- that's pretty rare," Svindal said. "It seems like Janka's cruising at a pretty good altitude right now. I think he's going to be very good all through the season."

Svindal finished first in a downhill, a super-G and a giant slalom March 14-17, 2007, at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, en route to that season's overall title. The last man to take three races in a row at Beaver Creek was Hermann Maier of Austria in 1999.

Pretty heady company.

Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., nearly matched Janka's feat this weekend in the women's World Cup races at Lake Louise, Alberta. She won downhills Friday and Saturday, then was the runner-up -- by all of 0.03 seconds -- in a super-G on Sunday.

Like Vonn, Janka is off to quite a start this season, marking him as someone to watch at the Vancouver Olympics in February. He finished third in a giant slalom at Soelden, Austria, in October, then third again in a downhill at Lake Louise last week.

Then came his perfect performance at Beaver Creek.

All this from a racer who said he's still regaining his strength after missing most of the summer with a virus. Most days, Janka said, he felt like he had a "low battery."

He sure was charged up just fine this weekend.

Miller looked good on one of the three race days at the lone U.S. stop on the men's World Cup circuit: He finished fourth behind Janka on Saturday, displaying his typically risky style. The American made two mistakes in that event -- putting his glove down in the snow at one point to stay upright -- but overcame the glitches to deliver a strong run.

The "Did Not Finish" on Sunday was the third for Miller in six events he's contested this season. Miller got off to a late start because he didn't decide until September that he would return to the circuit.

He also failed to finish the second run of Friday's super combined at Beaver Creek.

In assessing Janka, Svindal paid the kid a high compliment by comparing him to Maier and Miller in versatility. And when Svindal was asked whether it's good for the sport that Janka and he are both in fine form at the moment, more praise came.

"Right now we're not head-to-head, I would say," Svindal said. "He's a couple of heads ahead of me, at least."