Norway's Svindal wins downhill at Alpine worlds
SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the men's downhill title at the Alpine skiing world championships Saturday after a powerful run down the Planai course that no one came close to matching.
Watched by 33,000 spectators, Svindal kept a near-perfect line down the icy and bumpy 3.33-kilometer course despite foggy conditions that caused problems for several other skiers.
The Norwegian finished in 2 minutes, 1.32 seconds to win by nearly half a second and secure his second world downhill title, after also winning the marquee event in 2007. It was his fifth world title overall, to go with an Olympic gold in super-G.
Dominik Paris of Italy, who leads this season's World Cup downhill standings, trailed Svindal by 0.46 in second. David Poisson of France finished third, 0.97 behind.
"I knew I could not have skied better here," said Svindal, who raised both arms in the air and shouted out in celebration immediately 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."
The rest of the field, led by Klaus Kroell of Austria in fourth, finished more than a second off Svindal's winning time.
The Norwegian had to settle for bronze in Wednesday's super-G, a discipline he has dominated on the World Cup this season, and said that gave him extra motivation for the downhill.
"Winning bronze was nice but I was also a bit frustrated," Svindal said. "I really pushed hard today and avoided major mistakes."
He was about the only one to do so, as most of his rivals struggled to maintain their racing line on the turning and icy bottom section.
The low final right turn seemed to cause the most problems, as many skiers had to slow down to make the final gate before the finish.
Andreas Romar of Finland, who started seventh, became the first to master that section flawlessly and was in the lead until Poisson came down.
When it was Svindal's turn, the Norwegian stretched his lead at every split time and was also near-perfect in the finish section.
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."
Poisson had never been on the podium on the World Cup or at a major championship before earning France a second medal this week, following Gauthier De Tessieres' silver in the super-G.
"This is really perfect. Gauthier started the week well for us," Poisson said. "I am proud of my run, I was fast and I went to my limits."
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 Turin Olympics downhill was the last speed medal for Austria.
"I am very disappointed," said Kroell, last season's World Cup downhill champion. "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 Sunday.