Svin­dal wins down­hill

Nor­we­gian, 35, is old­est to win Alpine ski­ing gold

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - News obituaries -

By The As­so­ci­ated Press

JEONGSEON, South Korea — Ak­sel Lund Svin­dal won the men’s down­hill Thurs­day, mak­ing the 35-year-old Nor­we­gian the old­est Olympic gold medal­ist in Alpine ski­ing.

Svin­dal was 0.12 sec­onds faster than Nor­way team­mate Kjetil Jan­srud down the 1.8-mile (2.9-kilo­me­ter) course at Jeongseon. Beat Feuz of Switzer­land took bronze, 0.18 be­hind Svin­dal’s time of 1 minute, 40.25 sec­onds.

The race started in near-per­fect calm and cold con­di­tions four days af­ter it was post­poned due to fierce winds that made rac­ing un­safe. It was 34 de­grees Fahren­heit un­der sun­shine and blue skies bro­ken up by a few wispy clouds.

In a race that of­ten has a sur­prise win­ner, the new Olympic cham­pion has been the most con­sis­tent down­hill racer over the past decade de­spite a se­ries of se­vere in­juries. In fact, the three medal­ists were the most touted pre-race fa­vorites. Jan­srud took down­hill bronze four years ago at Sochi and Feuz is the cur­rent world cham­pion.

Svin­dal got sil­ver in down­hill at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Olympics and was fourth at the Sochi Olympics. He also won world cham­pi­onship gold medals in down­hill in 2007 and 2013.

Now, af­ter turn­ing 35 in De­cem­ber, he is three months older than Aus­tria’s Mario Matt was in 2014 when win­ning the Olympic slalom. The old­est Olympic medal­ist in Alpine rac­ing is Amer­i­can Bode Miller, who was 36 when tak­ing bronze in su­per-G at the Sochi Games.

Svin­dal ex­celled on the bottom half of the Jeongseon course af­ter some un­easy mo­mentsearly in his run.

The snow con­di­tions seemed faster than in train­ing runs, and Svin­dal worked hard to find the best rac­ing line. He took a tight an­gle across a tricky side hill, went wide at one turn, and fought through the air off one big jump.

The big Nor­we­gian trailed Feuz by 0.23 at half­way then mas­tered the lower sec­tion. Svin­dal punched his left arm air in the fin­ish area upon see­ing the clock and the green light next to his name. The only time in the race he had led was the one that mat­tered.

Jan­srud started three min­utes later on a course where he won the only pre­vi­ous down­hill, an Olympic test on the World Cup cir­cuit two years ago when Svin­dal was in­jured.

Ahead at four straight time checks, Jan­srud’s lead steadily dropped from 0.43 and he was twisted side­ways in midair be­fore land­ing one jump. He still had 0.04 in hand head­ing into a twist­ing ap­proach to the fi­nal jump. Jan­srud threw his head back in an­guish when he saw his time.

Feuz, the in-form down­hiller in 2018, was un­bal­anced early in his run. Rac­ing be­fore the Nor­we­gians, he smiled wryly for the tele­vi­sion cam­eras at the fin­ish and wig­gled his right hand as if ac­knowl­edg­ing his lead­ing time would not hold up.

No man has ever re­tained the Olympic down­hill ti­tle and de­fend­ing cham­pion Matthias Mayer’s chance was gone soon af­ter half­way. The Aus­trian racer fin­ished 1.21 be­hind Svin­dal in ninth place.

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