Aksel Lund Svindal made a triumphant return to the hill where a downhill crash nearly ended his career two years ago.
In the opening event of the 78th Hahnenkamm races on Friday, the 2010 Olympic super-G champion led a Norwegian 1-2 finish ahead of Kjetil Jansrud in the last World Cup race in the discipline before the Pyeongchang Games.
It was Svindal’s 16th career super-G victory, but first since winning in Kitzbuehel in 2016, a day before he badly injured his right knee. He was thrown off the course, landed in the safety netting on the Streif and underwent surgery for a ruptured ACL and damaged meniscus. Months later, he said the injury had nearly forced him into retirement.
Svindal on Friday dominated the super-G, which was delayed and moved to a different course higher up the hill because overnight snow and rain affected the lower part of the original course. The move meant the race included even more sections of the downhill course than usual.
Thousands of spectators followed the race on large video screens because the finish was out of sight.
“This is definitely something special. It was a special race with the finish high up on the hill,” said Svindal, who beat Jansrud by half a second. “Everyone was a bit nervous as we were not sure what to expect.”
Austrian teammates Matthias Mayer and Hannes Reichelt were third and fourth, 0.56 and 0.57 behind respectively.
Josef Ferstl of Germany, who won the previous super-G last month in Val Gardena, Italy, was 1.71 behind in 18th.
It was Svindal’s 35th career win and 30th in a speed event, trailing only Austrian standout Hermann Maier’s total of 39 downhill and super-G wins.
Svindal, who was to aim for his first downhill win in Kitzbuehel in yesterday’s race, finished in the top 10 of all three previous super-G races this season, but had not reached the podium.
Still hampered by knee problems, Svindal believed his reduced training schedule affected his super-G form.
“In downhill you have training runs which give you more confidence,” he said. “The downhill tomorrow will be very exciting, but the weekend couldn’t have started better.”
Winning the last super-G before the Olympics does not make Svindal an obvious favorite for the Feb. 15 race in Jeongseon, South Korea. Only once did the winner of the last World Cup race also take the Olympic super-G title — in 1998, when Maier achieved the feat.
The result closed the gap in the super-G standings between Svindal and leader Jansrud to 46 points, with Vincent Kriechmayr another 14 points back in third place.
Jansrud called the race “a difficult super-G for all.”
“No one had experience on this course,” the 2014 Olympic super-G champion said. “Aksel and I raced really well. Two moose on the podium, that makes us happy.”
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