Norwegian Jansrud wins downhill
BEAVER CREEK — He’s not “the other Norwegian,” and he’s certainly in nobody’s shadow.
Kjetil Jansrud picked up his third World Cup win in seven days by taking the Birds of Prey downhill Friday at Beaver Creek with a time of 1 minute 40.17 seconds, topping a pair of comeback stories on the podium in Switzerland’s Beat Feuz (1:40.71) and American Steve Nyman (1:40.73).
“For sure, it’s amazing,” Jansrud said. “You can never expect, going up and starting, to win. There are a lot of good skiers. Last half of last season was awesome and to start off with three wins is amazing.”
The big storyline has been whether Jansrud is emerging out of teammate Aksel Lund Svindal’s shadow. Svindal’s out this season with a ruptured Achilles, and Jansrud has won the first three speed events of the 2014-15 season with Friday’s win in Beaver Creek and a sweep last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta. But Jansrud was also winning when Svindal was healthy last season.
Jansrud captured super-G Olympic gold and downhill bronze and his first two World Cup wins in Kvitfjell, Norway, last season, all with Svindal, a two-time overall World Cup champion, in the field.
The irony for Jansrud is that he’s always been a slow starter in the early part of the season. That seems to be a thing of the past.
Pick your sporting cliche of choice — he’s in the zone or riding momentum.
“It’s a German saying, ‘When it runs, it runs,’” the Norwegian said. “It’s kind of how I feel. I want to go fast. I want to risk it. I feel like I’m taking chances, going down the hill, but I’m not doing any mistakes. I’m not risking my life. I’m not doing something out of the blue to grab the win. I’m just solid all the way, which is like an awesome situation to be in. You know that your solid (effort) is good enough, and roll with it.”
Not the biggest racer in the field, Jansrud was the 17th fastest on The Flyway, the gliding portion of the course better suited for the bigger athletes. Jansrud won the race on The Brink and the accompanying Talon Turn, one of the sharpest turns on the course.
Jansrud was 52-hundredths of a second faster than Feuz and 71-hundredths quicker than Nyman in that segment, and that was that. He carried the speed down to the finish and had his third win of this season and fifth career World Cup win.
“Today was a little extraordinary,” Jansrud said. “It’s a tough hill, and, normally, you do some mistakes going down the hill. Today was no mistakes. I felt, coming on The Brink, it was a perfect run. I can’t analyze it any more than that.”
It’s early, but Jansrud leads the World Cup standings with 316 points, ahead of tech specialist Marcel Hirscher (180) of Austria.
Feuz was simply ecstatic to finish second Friday. It’s been a long road for the 27-year-old Swiss skier. He looked like one of the rising stars of the sport during the 2011-12 season, which included a sliver in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G at Birds of Prey.
Feuz went into the World Cup Finals in Schladming, Austria, with a shot at the overall title. He finished second in that downhill on March 14, 2012, and second in the overall race.
And then the knee injuries started, and he hadn’t been on the podium since. When Feuz came down to the line and saw the No. 2 by his name on the scoreboard, he collapsed in happiness in the middle of the finish area.
“This story is almost bigger than (I) can imagine,” Feuz said through a translator. “(I) cannot realize it yet because (I’ve) been so far away. This is almost too much at the moment.”
Nyman always seemed to be the heir apparent to Daron Rahlves as the next great American downhiller at Birds of Prey. He was third here in 2006, and second in 2007.
The Provo, Utah, native has two career World Cup wins in Val Gardena, Italy, in 2007 and 2012, but injuries and a general lack of speed when healthy relegated to the unofficial category of “over the hill” at the age of 32.
He made an equipment change last spring, and the magic has returned. He said during training this week, had it not been for a big mistake in the Lake Louise downhill he would have been “in the top five” — he was 16th.
While Nyman was upset about his mistake, his finish improved his start position for Friday’s downhill, and he used it to his advantage. He roared out of the No. 4 spot and laid down the time to beat until Jansrud topped him 12 runs later. Even though Feuz dropped him to bronze, Nyman was all smiles after the race.
“It’s very encouraging just to ski well and be back near the top,” Nyman said. “A goal of mine has been consistency. I’ve always been up and down. … I’m fit. I feel like I can get through the whole year.”
Birds of Prey continues today with the super-G at 11 a.m.
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