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Svindal takes World Cup lead after Hirscher skips downhill

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The Canadian Press
3/12/2014 10:20:14 AM
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LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland -- Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway retook the lead in the overall World Cup standings Wednesday by placing fifth in a downhill won by Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria.

Svindal earned 45 points to move 41 ahead of two-time defending overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who skips downhills.

"If I had to put money on someone I have no idea who it would be," said Svindal, who will race against Hirscher in a super-G on Thursday.

Mayer earned his first career World Cup win in one minute, 29.99 seconds, 0.11 faster than Christof Innerhofer of Italy and American Ted Ligety, who tied for second. Svindal was 0.20 seconds behind Mayer.

Mayer and Innerhofer finished 1-2 in the downhill at the Sochi Olympics.

"It's very important," Mayer said of his win. "It was a target for me to win a World Cup race this year. It's perfect."

Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver, B.C., was 13th while Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant was 19th but finished the season a career-best third in the overall standings despite persistent knee issues.

"There's no question it was a successful year in downhill," Guay said. "With no skiing throughout the summer and having those knee difficulties in January, there have been a lot of ups and downs. To finish third overall is great.

"I feel like I could have been competitive for the Crystal Globe if I'd been healthy. It's a little bit of a bummer to finish on this note but finishing third overall gives me (hope) for next year."

Osborne-Paradis was ranked 18th in downhill while Calgary's Jan Hudec, who sat out Wednesday's race due to a back injury, was 24th.

On Thursday, Guay and Osborne-Paradis will conclude their World Cup seasons in the super-G. Osborne-Paradis will return to Canada to defend his national downhill title in Whistler, B.C., later this month, Guay, though, will head home to Quebec, where his wife, Karen, is expecting their third child.

"The super-G is going to feel fast, it will be interesting," Osborne-Paradis said. "I'm going to ski hard and hope for the best.

"I've got nothing to lose so I'm going to push my line and take what I've learned from today. I'll see what I can get away with."

Ligety's career-best result in downhill lifted him to third in the overall standings. His previous best in downhill was fourth, in 2007 at Lenzerheide where the steep, twisting course suits his technical skills.

"This is a hill I know I have a good chance on," said Ligety, the world champion in super-G. "I also don't count on this carrying through to other races on the World Cup downhill tour."

Svindal, a two-time overall champion, already clinched his second straight season-long downhill title before the World Cup Finals.

"I used to be 1-2-3 every race, and now I'm 4-5-6," said the Norwegian, who has finished just off the podium since the Olympics. "But Marcel is too."

Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver, B.C., was 13th and Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was last among the 19 skiers who finished the race.

Svindal is scheduled to start the giant slalom on Saturday, but skip Sunday's season-ending slalom which is typically Hirscher's best event.

American Bode Miller seemed poised for victory Wednesday until going wide near the end of his run. He placed eighth, 0.62 behind Mayer.

Several racers found trouble on the hard, bumpy snow despite the clear, sunny conditions. Austrian Georg Streitberger twisted in the air while crashing when more than a half-second ahead of Mayer midway down.

Aksel Lund Svindal (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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