Franz beats Svin­dal to maiden World Cup win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

VAL GAR­DENA: Max Franz stunned the field to win a World Cup down­hill yes­ter­day, end­ing Aus­tria’s 13-race drought in ski­ing’s sig­na­ture event with his first ca­reer vic­tory.

Start­ing with the No. 26 bib af­ter all of the fa­vorites had al­ready come down the Sas­long course, Franz fin­ished a slim 0.04 sec­onds ahead of Nor­we­gian stand­out Ak­sel Lund Svin­dal and 0.41 in front of Val Gar­dena spe­cial­ist Steven Ny­man. The pre­vi­ous Aus­trian man to win a down­hill was Hannes Re­ichelt in Kvit­f­jell, Nor­way, in March last year. Aus­tria, once known as the sport’s “Wun­derteam” for pro­duc­ing down­hillers like Franz Klam­mer, Stephan Eber­har­ter, Her­mann Maier and Michael Walch­hofer, didn’t win a sin­gle down­hill all of last sea­son.

“It’s a big re­lief,” Franz said. “We knew that all we needed was a lit­tle some­thing and then the pres­sure would let up and now we can all ski with­out this ex­ter­nal pres­sure.” Matthias Mayer of Aus­tria won the down­hill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics but he had his sea­son cut short last year with a hor­rific crash in Val Gar­dena, break­ing two ver­te­brae. Hav­ing re­turned to ac­tion ear­lier this sea­son, Mayer fin­ished 17th yes­ter­day. Franz also had in­jury prob­lems last sea­son, miss­ing sev­eral races due to knee and an­kle prob­lems. “Of course it’s an in­di­vid­ual sport but this is go­ing to help the en­tire team,” Franz said in Ger­man through a trans­la­tor.

The 27-year-old Franz’s pre­vi­ous best re­sults were two run­ner-ups and one third-place. Svin­dal was al­ready be­ing in­ter­viewed as the pre­sumed win­ner when Franz came down and made up a deficit in the fi­nal in­ter­val.

Upon see­ing his re­sult, Franz whipped his poles around wildly while Svin­dal took his hat off and Ny­man ap­plauded.

Svin­dal swept both the su­per-G and down­hill in Val Gar­dena last sea­son and was look­ing for his first vic­tory since miss­ing much of last sea­son fol­low­ing a crash and knee in­jury in Kitzbue­hel. Ny­man, mean­while, needed one more win to match Klam­mer and Ital­ian stand­out Kris­tian Ghe­d­ina for a record fourth down­hill win in Val Gar­dena.

The high­lights of the Sas­long are the camel bumps, which launch skiers into the air for nearly 80 me­ters (90 yards), and the twisty and tech­ni­cal “ciaslat” sec­tion - two ar­eas that come right af­ter another mid­way down. There are also nu­mer­ous lit­tle bumps and jumps, pro­vid­ing con­stant air time.

Svin­dal made a ma­jor er­ror mid­way through his run, land­ing a jump far out­side the race line, prompt­ing him to brake to clear the next gate.

“You don’t win races with mis­takes,” Svin­dal said. “The other guys are too fast . ... I knew it wasn’t re­ally per­fect.”

Ny­man also strug­gled, sit­ting down on his skis while land­ing the big­ger camel jump. Still, the Amer­i­can was able to re­gain his speed. “I was just telling my­self, ‘You got to keep push­ing. The first thing in my mind was that the knees didn’t pop so things are OK. Let’s keep go­ing, keep charg­ing. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,’” Ny­man said

All three of Ny­man’s wins have come in Val Gar­dena.

“I can’t not be happy about a podium,” Ny­man said. “I’m re­ally happy to per­form the way I did with a mis­take.” Adrien Theaux of France fin­ished fourth and 2013 win­ner Erik Guay of Canada was fifth.

In a strong day for the US Ski Team, Travis Ganong came sev­enth and Bryce Ben­nett was eighth. Kjetil Jan­srud, the Nor­we­gian who had won the open­ing three speed races of the sea­son - in­clud­ing Fri­day’s su­per-G on the Sas­long, was only 12th.

The men travel over the Gar­dena pass into Alta Ba­dia for a gi­ant slalom and a par­al­lel slalom to­day and to­mor­row, re­spec­tively.

— AP

VAL GAR­DENA: From left, sec­ond placed Ak­sel Lund Svin­dal, of Nor­way, first placed Max Franz of Aus­tria and third placed Steven Ny­man of the United States cel­e­brate on the podium of an alpine ski, men’s World Cup down­hill, in Val Gar­dena, Italy, yes­ter­day.

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