Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press
Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press
SCHLADMING, Austria – Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the men’s downhill title at the Alpine skiing World Championships on Saturday after a powerful run down the Planai course that no one came close to matching.
Watched by thousands of spectators, Svindal kept a near-perfect line down the icy and bumpy course despite foggy conditions that caused problems for several skiers. The Norwegian finished in 2 minutes, 1.32 seconds to win by nearly half a second.
“I knew I could not have skied better here,” said Svindal, who raised both arms in the air and shouted out in celebration after his run. “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, who leads this season’s World Cup downhill standings, trailed Svindal by 0.46 seconds in second place. David Poisson of France finished third, 0.97 behind.
Svindal added to his 2007 world downhill title, earning his fifth world title overall. His father Bjoern Svindal was among the first to congratulate the champion in the finish area.
“I knew from the start that he was going to do something special,” dad said. “He was very focused. I expected a medal as he had already done well in the super-G.”
The rest of the field, led by Klaus Kroell of Austria in fourth, finished more than a second off Svindal’s winning time.
Defending champion Erik Guay of Canada failed to finish, narrowly avoiding a crash and missing a gate.
With 2005 champion Bode Miller sitting out the season to recover from knee surgery, the Americans failed to make an impact.
Less than 2 hours before the start of the race, Andrew Weibrecht posted the fastest time in an additional 50-second training run on the difficult, turning bottom part of the course. But the American only managed 22nd in the race, 3.25 seconds behind Svindal.
“It’s definitely one of the rougher courses we ski. The bumps were frozen up,” Weibrecht said. “There was flat light, it was overcast, so you were kind of going into stuff, and you can’t see it.”
Marco Sullivan slid off course when his left ski lost contact with the snow in a right turn. He landed in the safety nets and wasn’t injured.
“I am not really sure what happened,” Sullivan said. “My ski got clicked out. The next thing was I saw the fence coming.”
Svindal earned a bronze in Wednesday’s super-G, a discipline he has dominated on the World Cup this season. He said it gave him extra motivation for the downhill.
“Winning bronze was nice, but I was also a bit frustrated,” Svindal said. “I really pushed hard (Saturday) and avoided major mistakes.”
Svindal now has won 11 medals at major championships, still nine short of the all-time record held by fellow Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who watched the race from the stands.
Paris, who won the downhill races in Bormio and Kitzbuehel this season, lost time to the Norwegian toward the end but said he had “a great race.”
“I tried to go for a medal, but I didn’t think I could do it,” Paris said. “I saved energy in the upper part because I knew I needed it for that difficult finish section.”
Kroell’s fourth place left the home nation without a gold medal in a speed event of any major championship since the 2003 worlds, when Michael Walchhofer won the downhill and Stephan Eberharter the super-G.
Walchhofer’s silver medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics downhill remains the last speed medal for Austria.
“I am very disappointed,” said Kroell, last season’s World Cup downhill champion who grew up in a nearby village. “I had a big mistake early on, and I didn’t find my flow because of all the bumps. I just couldn’t keep the line.”
The women’s downhill is today.