Svindal wins again at Birds of Prey
December 6, 2008
BEAVER CREEK ” The fear and doubt that have haunted Aksel Lund Svindal since his horrific crash are now gone, buried on the mountain where the wipeout took place.
The Norwegian won a World Cup super G Saturday, a day after capturing the downhill title. Svindal completed the super G in 1 minute, 13.05 seconds, with Austrian star Hermann Maier 0.45 seconds behind, a day before his 36th birthday.
Another Austrian, Michael Walchhofer, was third. Ted Ligety of the United States tied for seventh and Bode Miller bounded up after sliding to the snow to finish 14th.
Svindal was returning to the scene where he broke his nose and cheekbone and lacerated his buttock in a training run last season. His victory breaks a two-year reign in the Birds of Prey event by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who was 10th Saturday.
“This is special,” Svindal said. “You never expect to win one, let alone two. There are too many good skiers.”
Most notably Maier, who’s been fighting apprehensions of his own.
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He’s been hampered recently by a disk problem in his lower back, not to mention a stiff ankle stemming from his motorcycle accident in 2001 that nearly cost him his leg.
It’s hard to tell he’s been hurting, however, given his runner-up finish with an aggressive run and his victory a week ago in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“Hermann is back,” Walchhofer said.
Now thoughts of retirement will have to wait ” at least for now. He was considering calling it a career before this season, but then came a good training session in Chile.
“I thought I would make one more season,” said Maier, adding it’s “too far away” to consider the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Known more as a technical skier, Ligety flew through the course, cracking the top 10 despite starting from the 32nd position. He was one of six U.S. skiers to finish in the top 30.
“I’ve always wanted to be good in this event,” he said. “It has been a goal of mine. It’s just the technical events have always been my bread and butter. … The run went really well. It came together today.”
Miller made an impressive recovery, righting himself in time to make a gate and remain on course. The New Hampshire skier wiped out in Friday’s downhill.
“I’m a little bit sore,” he said. “The hill was good, there’s just a little bit of changing snow conditions on the top. The first runs you get are all pretty solid, then it kind of gets a little bit softer. That’s where I got caught and on this snow you can’t really make up a whole lot. When you make a mistake, it usually takes you out.”
Miller’s teammates were impressed.
“It’s a testament to how good he is,” said Marco Sullivan, who finished 22nd. “A lot of guys wouldn’t be able to pull that off.”
Cornel Zueger of Switzerland provided the day’s scariest moment, flying out of control on a jump. He landed on his head before tumbling down the mountain, an advertising fence stopping his fall. Zueger had cuts on his face and briefly sat up before being put in a sled and taken down the mountain to a hospital.
Svindal spent two weeks healing in a Vail hospital after his crash, a ski slope visible from his window. That only served as motivation.
On Friday, he used fear to fuel him down the slopes in the downhill. Now, he’s won two events at the place that haunted him.
“I’m just enjoying the moment,” he said.
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