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Svindal of Norway conquers downhill run again at Beaver Creek

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The Canadian Press
12/6/2013 6:04:58 PM
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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- As usual, Aksel Lund Svindal was super fast on this hill.

And it didn't matter that organizers altered the layout. The Norwegian star still navigated it to near perfection, even with falling snow, freezing temperatures and low visibility.

Oh, yeah, he also is getting over a sinus infection.

"He's the king," Hannes Reichelt of Austria said.

Here, Svindal definitely wears the crown.

Svindal flew through the hybrid course -- one that was hard to see through the low-lying clouds -- to capture a World Cup downhill Friday. Svindal finished in 1 minute, 44.50 seconds, beating Reichelt by 0.17 seconds. Peter Fill of Italy was third.

Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis came agonizingly close to his first World Cup podium in three years.The three-time World Cup winner from Vancouver finished four-hundredths of a second out of third. Jan Hudec of Calgary was seventh and Erik Guay of Mout Tremblant, Que., was 16th as the Canadian Cowboys put on a show.

"Another fourth! It's just a matter of time before I get a podium," said Osborne-Paradis. "I'm skiing better and I'm skiing faster and more confidently. It's really just about putting it all together. My run was pretty clean. I made a mistake on the pitch and came out a little low and that probably cost me the race, but that's racing."

Hudec, who also virtually secured his spot on the plane to Sochi with a 10th-place finish in the super-G at Lake Louise last weekend, skied well but made a few mistakes. "I'm stoked to have another top 10," said Hudec. "Manny and I both owe a big thank you to our serviceman, who absolutely nailed the wax and did a great job on the skis.

"It was a good day," said Martin Rufener, head coach of Canada's men's alpine team. "Manny was so close to the podium. It's a really technical downhill so it was a nice result for him. Erik has still not had many training days on the speed side but he was skiing well.

To have two in the top seven and to just miss the podium - we're very happy."

American Bode Miller finished a solid 13th, rounding back into form after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

This was Svindal's fourth career win at this venue. No wonder he holds Beaver Creek in such high regard, even if it is the site of one of his most horrific crashes.

In 2007, Svindal lost control over a jump and landed on his backside, sliding into a fence. During the fall, one of his razor-sharp skis went over him, leaving a 6-inch laceration of his left buttock. The cut so concerned doctors they went into his stomach to make sure everything internally was still intact.

A distant memory, he said.

He holds no animosity toward a venue that's otherwise treated him so well. Of his 52 career podium finishes, 11 have taken place at Beaver Creek.

"The crazy thing is I don't really have bad memories, even from the year I crashed and spent two weeks in the hospital," said Svindal, who leads the overall World Cup standings after five races. "It's a good place to be in the hospital. There are super good doctors."

Reichelt thought he turned in a good run in deteriorating conditions, maybe a winning run. Six skiers later, Svindal powered out of the starting gate, gaining ground on Reichelt at every interval. When Svindal finished and saw his time, he pumped his poles in the air in exultation.

No one was going to catch him. This is his course, no matter how they lay it out.

Usually, this is a familiar downhill course for the racers. Only this season, it was a hybrid path that featured part of the new women's downhill before switching over to the more traditional men's setting.

"I like the old course better, I have to be honest," Svindal said. "This is a good course. But the old course is one of the best courses in the world.

"I just decided to get after it. No one is going to ski this perfect in these conditions. So if you can't ski it perfect, you have to ski it aggressively."

That was Miller's approach, too. He showed flashes of his old form, the one that won him many races before sitting out last season with a surgically repaired knee. With Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" blaring over the loudspeaker, Miller charged full speed ahead, his arms flailing in places and one of his skis lifting into the air at one point.

Miller, of Franconia, N.H., wound up 1.04 seconds behind Svindal.

That hardly mattered to him. In this race, Miller actually felt really good on skis. He was enjoying it.

"Even though the course is pretty basic and not that challenging in a way, I was fun today," Miller said. "I knew I had a bunch of intensity, so I tried to ski dynamic."

He thinks his equipment and the weather held him back more than anything, not his knee.

"I thought I skied pretty well," said Miller, who scooped up his young daughter and hugged his wife after finishing. "Even though it's not a great result, I'm happy with it. I skied the way I needed to ski.

"I think the races have not been a good representation of where my skiing was at. In training, I was winning runs against everyone, Aksel and the Canadians and everybody. This is a closer result to how I ski. If we had the best skis out there or we got a little luckier, I think we could've been in the lead."

Aksel Lund Svindal  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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