Aksel Lund Svindal came into the third downhill of the World Cup season having won in Lake Louise and also in Beaver Creak. The giant Norwegian then won the Super G in Val Gardena on Friday to set up the opportunity to become the first man to win both the Super G and Downhill in Val Gardena on the same weekend. With his close friend and training partner in the lead in the finish, Svindal showed strength, determination and power to post an even faster time than Kjetil Jansrud. Guillermo Fayed then came down and split the two Norwegians.
Val Gardena is a race that is often affected by the wind. Svindal and the rest of the racers were delighted that the sun shone and the wind stayed away – this was perfect racing conditions. Europe is not being blessed with an abundance of snow at the moment and the fact that the race went ahead, fully on man-made snow, shows the extent of the technology involved in keeping the white circus going.
Peter Fill continued his great season by taking an early lead from rising German star Peppi Ferstl. Even Mr Val Gardena, three-time winner Steven Nyman was unable to dislodge the likeable Italian from the leaders enclosure. With the start of the top group of seeded racers, Fill knew that his challenge was there to be attacked.
Ski racing is a dangerous sport but the likes of firms like Dainese are making the sport safer with the technology they are developing. Matthias Mayer was the first of the top racers to go and he was having a good run when he over-rotated and span through the air off a jump just before the legendary Ciaslat section. Mayer had mentioned the day before the thinness of the snow covering was causing his knee pain. he had questioned himself whether he would race in the Super G and the Downhill. While Mayer lay crumpled in a heap after his fall, the started to develop regarding whether he was wearing one of the new Dainese airbags. He was. The end result of his fall was a broken rib. It could have been much worse.
Kjetil Jansrud was held in the start and it was testimony to his professionalism that he kept his eye on the ball and held his nerve. While he did not see the fall, Jansrud made a similar error at the same point but was able to hold his line and carry on. Two-tenths was his lead when he crossed the line and while she showed the emotion of taking the lead, he knew that he had made an error and that Fill had also made a mistake. Svindal was still to come.
Erik Guay has spent much of the last year off the snow and while he has picked up top ten results, this was a huge confidence boost he admitted after the race. The joy and relief was there for all to see. “Sure this was a huge confidence boost but I know that I can go better,” the likeable Canadian explained.
Guay went into third and then there was the countdown to Svindal taking the course. Stephan Ebergarter was the last racer to win the first three downhills of the season in 2002 – 2003. No one had won both Saslong races in the same weekend. The challenge was there.
Such is the strength of Svindal that when he leant back off one of the numerous rollers on the course, the crowd breathed in and when the tails of his skis landed, Svindal was back on the power. He is a big man but strong. He skies with grace, power and cuts the line that it leaves the rest of the field watching him n video trying to work out after the event how he is so fast.
The shrug of the shoulders by Jansrud in the finish said it all. Svindal is in a class of his own at the moment. This was win number 5 of the season for him.
As Jansrud moved to the side, Guillermo Fayed took to the course. Fayed has been a revelation in the last two seasons and now is a Downhill star in his own right. Tantalisingly close to Svindal all the way down and agonisingly ahead of Jansrud, Fayed split the two at the finish. The French team erupted in joy!
While the talk was then divided between the awesome Svindal performance and the great advert, if you can call it that, for the Dainese Airbag, American Bryce Bennett shot into sixth place from a start of 57. Val Gardena has that habit of throwing in surprises! As for the young Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, he skied out!
Updated statement from Dainese regarding the crash involving Mathias Mayer.