LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – The downhill track at Lake Louise was yet again the creator of a comeback fairytale as Aksel Lund Svindal claimed victory by the narrowest possible margin, just 0.01 seconds, in his first World Cup speed race since an Achilles injury kept him off tour all of last season. He edged out Italian Peter Fill, who held the lead from his bib 4 start all the way until Svindal came down 16 skiers later.
“I have to say for me, but also for Lindsey (Vonn), for sure, we’ve had a lot of success here. When the first race after a long period away is a hill that you know well, that’s definitely an advantage,” said Svindal. “You gain some experience when you’ve been on the tour, and also obviously some confidence with a lot of good results in specific destinations. Lake Louise has been very good to me, so I’m happy to have the first race here.”
Svindal previously won the downhill at the Canadian resort in 2012, the first year he went on to claim the discipline globe. But his last victory in downhill was in 2013 at Bormio. The Attacking Viking now has a total of eight podiums at Lake Louise, including six super G victories which may prove fortuitous on Sunday.
The win didn’t come with a smooth run, however, as Svindal hooked a ski in the middle of the course and had to fight to regain his balance more than once.
“I was hoping it would be a fast run. I was definitely pushing it way harder than the training runs, so it wasn’t that clean. That’s what happens when you’re racing – you need to see where the limits are. I definitely made a couple of mistakes that I thought would have cost me more but luckily I was carrying good speed too. I was a little bit surprised to see the green light, I have to say, when I came across the line. But it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s green. It was only a hundredth of a second, but that’s racing.”
Pre-race favorite Kjetil Jansrud was going for broke on the hill, and his aggressive movements and direct line cost him the tenths that Svindal somehow managed to hold. Jansrud ultimately finished ninth, 0.77 seconds off his teammate, after a rough and ragged run. But Svindal doesn’t believe today’s performance is indicative of what’s to come from the Attacking Vikings as a team.
“The training runs here kind of showed that (Kjetil and I) are able to be one and two. I think we will see races this winter where that will happen,” noted Svindal. “Racing is different than training, but on the other side I would say those training runs are a good sign that we have the speed. So I think we will see a double victory for Norway this year.”
The Vikings on top will have to keep an eye on rising talent Aleksander Aamodt Kilde who finished 15th overall from bib 56, the hands-down “Attack From the Back” on the day. At 23 years old, Kilde was the youngest racer to crack the top 20.
Veteran Peter Fill of Italy, who was just happy to hold onto a podium finish after starting fourth, officially declared his love for North American snow in the finish area. The continent has played host to five of his World Cup podium results now between Lake Louise and Beaver Creek.
“It’s my favorite snow, and sometimes I’m really fast,” said Fill. “(You need to go) full attack and take a lot of risk and ski smooth, but when you ski too hard here it’s not so good. It’s really aggressive snow. … I knew it was a good run, but I didn’t know if it was good enough.”
The long wait was well worth it and Fill secured his first podium since Beaver Creek in 2013, when he finished third in both the downhill and super G.
“I think in Beaver Creek I’m much faster than here,” admitted Fill. “I like the slope there much better. It’s one of my favorite slopes. Last winter for World Championships I couldn’t race because I broke my shoulder,” Fill said implying he has some unfinished business to tend to next week in Colorado.
In the final spot on stage, American Downhiller Travis Ganong rounded out the podium at an unlikely venue for the 27 year old. He was the first U.S. Ski Team athlete on course, and his time held up for third place despite numerous attacks from the top 7 skiers.
“I’ve really struggled here at Lake Louise in the past. I really didn’t do well here when I was at the NorAm level, kind of figuring it out. This year the snow is just so perfect that I was able to push hard and ski like I want to ski and be competitive. So I’m really happy with how it worked out,” said Ganong. “On a day like today it’s the best day to be a racer – it’s perfect conditions, perfect weather, sunny. It’s a good start to the winter.”
Wind and cold temperatures, often in play at Lake Louise, were no one’s excuse for poor performance on the day. But the first speed race of the season has a way of creating its own drama even when Mother Nature is in full cooperation.
“On race day people get really over-amped sometimes. You saw that today, like Jansrud had some mistakes and some of the other favorites had mistakes because they were pushing really hard. For me it’s all about staying relaxed and skiing within myself and having fun and trusting in my ability,” remarked Ganong.
The Californian holds onto the American Downhillers’ denim vest this week after Steven Nyman finished tied for 16th with Patrick Kueng and Andrew Weibrecht, who had to take a rerun after being flagged off course, finished tied for 24th with Bostjan Kline. Vermont native Drew Duffy made his World Cup debut but lost his outside ski on the bumpy terrain. He slid toward the fences but was able to get up and ski down without injury.
“Hopefully next week my teammates are knocking at the door with me. I’d be proud to hand (the vest) off to the next guy or hold onto it for another week,” said Ganong.
Weibrecht was flagged when Austrian Markus Duerager crashed and tumbled through the nets at Claire’s Corner, the last significant turn on course. He was helicoptered off the slope and transported via ambulance to Banff Mineral Springs Hospital and then transferred to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, where he underwent surgery for a broken tibia and fibula in his left leg and a broken left wrist.
The men will race a super G at Lake Louise on Sunday morning with the start set for 11:00 a.m. local time.
See more photos from this race here.
By Hank McKee
- Svindal, Head/Head/Head
- Fill, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Ganong, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Fayed, Head/Head/Head
- Janka, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Franz, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Paris, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Mayer, Head/Head/Head
- Jansrud, Head/Head/Head
- Guay, Head/Head/Head
- Men’s World Cup downhill, Lake Louise, Canada, Nov. 28, 2015. … It is the fourth of 87 races in the 2015-16 season, the second of 45 originally scheduled for men with one cancellation. … It is the first of 11 scheduled men’s downhills. … It is the 100th World Cup race held at Lake Louise. … The 61st downhill.
- Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won the last downhill at the site, Nov. 29, 2014. … He was also among the three fastest finishers in the three training runs this season.
- It is the 26th World Cup win for Aksel Lund Svindal and his seventh at Lake Louise, though just the second in downhill. … His other downhill win at the site came Nov. 24, 2012.
- It is the 12th career World Cup podium for Peter Fill and his third scored at Lake Louise. … He won the downhill at the site Nov. 29, 2008.
- It is the third career World Cup podium for Travis Ganong, his previous two both in downhill and both in the 2014 calendar year. … He won at Santa Catarina Dec. 28, 2014 and was third at Kvitfjell Feb. 28, 2014. … All three of his podiums have come on the 28th day of a month.
- It is the 70th career top-10 World Cup result for Erik Guay and his 11th at Lake Louise. … It is his 41st top 10 in downhill. … It is the 31st top-six placing for Steven Nyman. … And the 17th best of 28 scoring results for Benjamin Thomsen. … It is the second best downhill showing at Lake Louise for Andrew Weibrecht … and it is the 13th time Manuel Osborne-Paradis has scored at Lake Louise.
- Svindal claims the overall standings lead 107-100 over Ted Ligety (did not race). …Fill is third with 80pts. … Ganong is fifth with 60pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 287-284 over France. … Italy is third with 252. … The U.S. is fifth with 196pts and Canada eighth with 37pts.
|1||20||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:47.29||0.00|
|15||56||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:48.52||+1.23||14.33|
|35||36||194542||GIRAUD MOINE Valentin||1992||FRA||1:49.64||+2.35||27.38|
|46||47||380292||ZRNCIC DIM Natko||1986||CRO||1:50.25||+2.96||34.49|
|53||59||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||1:51.19||+3.90||45.44|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|