If anyone had to beat Aksel Lund Svindal in his final race, he seemed just fine with it being Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud.
After an emotional moment when he leaned back, stretched his arms out and looked to the sky, Svindal was all smiles, despite finishing a close second in the downhill at the world championships on Saturday.
Amid a crowd of thousands of flag-waving Norwegian fans, Svindal playfully pointed at Jansrud after finishing 0.02 seconds behind in a race that was characterized by thick fog and heavy snowfall, which caused an hour’s delay.
Jansrud had come down three racers earlier.
“Two-hundredths this way or two-hundredths that way, doesn’t matter. Let’s just enjoy this,” Svindal said. “I was really relaxed, to be honest. It was a great show, a double Norwegian [show].”
Already an Olympic champion in the super-G at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this is Jansrud’s first world title, adding to his two silvers at the world championships.
A big Liverpool soccer fan, he compared the feeling of skiing into a finish area filled with flag-waving Norwegian spectators to how he envisaged it would be like scoring a goal at Anfield.
“It is one of the biggest come-to-the-finish moments of my career,” Jansrud said. “I got a little taste of how a soccer player feels every weekend.”
Svindal bowed to the roaring crowd during the flower ceremony.
“I’ve been sharing the podium quite a few times with Aksel in my career, so doing this on his last race and [at the] world championships is an honor. So this is a perfect day,” Jansrud said.
Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria came third, 0.33 seconds behind, to add to his silver medal from the super-G event earlier in the week.
Svindal, a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, last month announced that he would retire after this race.
Jansrud was racing with two broken bones in his left hand following a fall in training in Kitzbuehel, Austria, two-and-a-half weeks ago. Doctors had told Jansrud to sit out for six weeks, but he could not pass up the chance of racing at a worlds so close to home.
“They said [the injury] is not going to be good enough for Are,” Jansrud said. “But somehow you get this singular focus to make it happen.”
“This was something that I missed up until now,” Jansrud added about his missed opportunities in previous worlds. “So that makes it bigger.”
While Svindal just missed out on a chance to become the first man to win the downhill world title three times, he still joined Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Marc Girardelli as the only skiers to collect a medal at six different world championships.
“This is more than I expected, to be honest,” Svindal said. “I knew I was fast enough to win or take a medal, but to make it happen on the one day that it counts is something else.”
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