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Norway’s Svindal falters in Olympic men’s downhill

February 9, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Norway got a medal in the Olympic men’s downhill. It just wasn’t gold — and it didn’t go to the skier who was widely expected to receive it.

Aksel Lund Svindal, the reigning world champion and World Cup leader in Alpine skiing’s glamour event, finished fourth. Instead, it was Kjetil Jansrud who took bronze to ensure Norway’s fifth men’s downhill medal in the past six Olympics.

Svindal blamed his own errors in finishing 0.29 seconds behind gold medalist Matthias Mayer of Austria, Christof Innerhofer of Italy and Jansrud.

“I think I had pretty good speed, but I had too many small mistakes,” Svindal said. “Twenty-nine-hundredths is not a big margin, and that’s what those mistakes will cost you, for sure.”

Svindal was gracious in defeat and happy for Jansrud.

“It’s cool to have a teammate on the podium,” Svindal said. “Of the three guys on the podium, he’s my biggest surprise, but that’s a really good surprise.”

Despite his second straight near-miss in Olympic downhill, the 31-year-old Svindal refused to feel sorry for himself.

“It’s a part of the game. If you can’t take a fourth place then you can’t be a racer,” he said.

Four years ago, he was bumped by Didier Defago of Switzerland, by just seven-hundredths of a second.

That left Svindal to fill the lower podium steps with Bode Miller, and follow Norwegian greats Kjetil Andre Aamodt (1994) and Lasse Kjus (1998, 2002) as downhill silver medalists.

“No one ever goes and just grabs their medals,” Svindal said. “You’ve got to put down a perfect run, and under these conditions, that is actually really hard.”

Those conditions Sunday included finding and maintaining speed in weaker sunshine, more humid air and softer snow than racers experienced since Thursday in training runs in which Svindal, Miller and Mayer had excelled.

“The light was different, but we’re kind of used to that,” Svindal said.

Jansrud noted that Norway’s high standards helped him regain his level of skiing after he ruptured his ACL in his left knee a year ago in the super-G race won by American Ted Ligety at the world championships in Schaldming, Austria.

“The training we have when we’re both in good form is probably the best training we can get,” he said.

It was the second Olympic medal for the 28-year-old Jansrud, who took silver in the giant slalom in Vancouver, where Svindal got the bronze.

“It’s not really a question between me and Aksel,” Jansrud said. “From the start to the finish I ski for myself, obviously. When I come to the finish, we’re one big team again. Unfortunately, he gets the bummer fourth place in the Olympics. But as a team it’s still a strong day having two guys in top four.”

The Norwegian duo might repeat that result Friday in the more technical super-G race, in which Svindal is the defending champion.

“Super-G and this (downhill) was equal chances,” he said. “I’ve burned one and I have one left.”

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