LAKE LOUISE, Canada: Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won the first men’s alpine skiing World Cup downhill of the season at Lake Louise on Saturday.
Svindal posted his 17th career World Cup victory ahead of Austrian Max Franz. World Cup downhill champion Klaus Kroell shared third place with American Marco Sullivan, who stormed onto the podium despite an unfavorable 42nd starting position.
Under sunny skies in the Canadian Rockies, Svindal — a treble medallist at the 2010 Winter Olympics — clocked 1min 48.31sec to win his first downhill at Lake Louise, a venue where he has won three super-G races in 2005, 2007 and last year.
Franz, who turned in a dominant run in the first training session on Wednesday, set the early pace but ended up 64-hundredths of a second back and just two-hundredths of a second ahead of Kroell, winner of the World Cup downhill title last season.
Svindal said he thought Franz had turned in a good run, and felt he had to take some chances to try and catch him, and his aggressive approach paid off.
“I figured I had to risk to try to get this win,” he said. “I was trying to cut the line wherever I could.
“Also, the snow was a touch better than it was the other day, so I could get away with a little more aggressive line, and that worked.”
US veteran Sullivan’s run came just after a long interruption that followed the crash of young Italian Mattia Casse. The 22-year-old was evacuated from the hill by helicopter after a crash into the safety netting.
Germany’s Tobias Stechert finished fifth, 85-hundreths behind the leader and ahead of Canadian Erik Guay, the reigning downhill world champion.
It was a tough day for the Swiss, whose longtime standard-bearer in the speed disciplines, Didier Cuche, retired in March.
Olympic champion Didier Defago finished more than four seconds off the pace.
The disappointing showing came two days after Swiss skier Daniel Albrecht injured his left knee in a training crash and three days after Swiss ski officials announced that Beat Feuz would miss the rest of the season because he wasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery last spring.
On Sunday, Svindal will go for a fourth super-G victory at Lake Louise. Not surprisingly, he said he was glad to be back here.
“I always come to Lake Louise with good feelings. I like it here,” he said. “It’s a very good start to the speed season. It’s a tough hill in the sense that it’s fast — there’s a high average speed.
“But it’s not one of the worst courses, it’s a bit more relaxed.”