Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal has earned a slice of alpine skiing history.
At Saturday’s world downhill championship in Schladming, Austria, Svindal mastered the Planai piste in a time of two minutes 1.32 seconds to win the men’s title. It is the second time Svindal has won the downhill championship, tying him with legends Jean-Claude Killy, Toni Sailer and Bernhard Russi.
Overall, the 30-year-old Svindal has won five world championships in multiple disciplines and is the defending Olympic gold medalist in the super giant slalom. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, he also won a silver in the downhill and a bronze in the giant slalom. Combined, Svindal has earned 11 medals at major championships, nine short of the all-time record held by fellow Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt.
Svindal dubbed his Saturday result a “huge achievement” and described the course as demanding.
“I knew I could not have skied better here," he told reporters. "I took a lot of risks. It was a tough race. Visibility wasn't good and the course was difficult. At the finish, I was exhausted, in my head as well."
Dominik Paris of Italy placed second; France’s David Poisson was third.
Erik Guay, the defending world downhill champion from Mont-Tremblant, Que., was disqualified from Saturday’s downhill after almost crashing and skiing out after missing a gate
“I knew at the start that I didn’t want to come down here and finish fourth or fifth so I took some chances” said Guay. “It’s a little bit disheartening for sure. I had a good race out of the start. I was in the right place – I was skiing well. My head wasn’t really in it through the bottom section (after losing time due to a mistake) and I ended up going out. It was just a little bit of bad luck.”
Jan Hudec, who was second in the world downhill in 2007, was the top Canadian in Schladming placing ninth. He was followed by teammates Ben Thomsen (17th) and Manny Osborne-Paradis (18th).
“I’m really disappointed,” said Hudec. “I knew I had a chance to be on the podium today and that’s how I skied. I just had some bad luck today and that’s ski racing. About 25 seconds into the race I thought it was snowing a lot. I think I was just sweating under my helmet from the warm up. I couldn’t see. It was already bad visibility but I couldn’t see anything. It was just bad luck.”
Hudec, who posted a time of 2:2.99 seconds, was disappointed his team couldn’t keep Canada’s podium streak alive. John Kucera, currently injured, won the downhill in 2009.
“It’s a tough day. Everyone’s disappointed,” Hudec said. “Top Canadian doesn’t really mean much today. At the end of the day I wanted to win. It was heartbreaking to see Erik struggling in the middle section, to have that mistake. He was in the lead and I really thought he could defend his championship."