Kitzbühel (Austria) (AFP) – Norway’s self-styled ‘Attacking Vikings’ will head to next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang full of confidence after peaking on the World Cup circuit at just the right time.
Leader of the group remains Aksel Lund Svindal, who although approaching the twilight of his career, can never be written off in any speed event.
Partnering him will be Kjetil Jansrud, while slalom specialist Henrik Kristoffersen offers a real threat in the technical disciplines.
Kitzbuehel proved a happy hunting ground for the trio, Svindal winning Friday’s super-G ahead of Jansrud, while Kristoffersen claimed the slalom title.
Up and coming Aleksander Aamodt Kilde came in 12th and 18th in the super-G and downhill.
After 25 of 39 races this season, Austrian Marcel Hirscher tops the overall World Cup table followed by Kristoffersen, Svindal and Jansrud.
“God damnit! #attackingvikings on fire,” was Jansrud’s reaction after the 1-2 in the super-G.
Svindal won three Olympic medals (one of each colour) at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and is an eight-time world championship medallist, five of them gold.
But his best in Sochi was a fourth, seventh and eighth as he failed to medal.
The 35-year-old was left disappointed by his eighth place in the downhill in Kitzbuehel, on the same demanding course that saw him suffer a season-ending injury in 2016.
“Some days are great, and sometimes you disappoint yourself a little bit,” lamented Svindal after the downhill, the most prestigious on the World Cup circuit and won this year by unheralded German Thomas Dressen.
“Today was one of those days that could have been great, but I just didn’t make it happen. Still happy with the week :),” tweeted Svindal.
Jansrud, who won super-G gold and downhill bronze in the Sochi Olympics and giant slalom silver in Vancouver, said he was just happy to be back racing properly.
“I’ve been sounding like a real drama queen,” Jansrud said when questioned about his complaints over not finding his rhythm in training.
“I’m very happy with the podium. I’ve been struggling a little bit with the super-G in Kitzbuehel so I’m very happy.”
– Slalom glory –
Kristoffersen rounded off the Kitzbuehel weekend with a thrilling victory over Austrian nemesis Hirscher.
The 23-year-old, yet to be defeated after leading a first run, took a 1.05sec lead over Hirscher into the second run of a slalom held in heavy snow.
And despite one minor blip halfway down the Ganslern course, the Norwegian kept his nerve to claim a 16th World Cup victory and snap a five-race winning streak by Hirscher.
“Henrik was in a league of his own,” acknowledged Hirscher, a six-time overall World Cup winner who will be bidding for his first Olympic title in Pyeongchang next month.
Third-placed Daniel Yule, born in Switzerland to Scottish parents, hailed Kristoffersen and Hirscher.
“I think today I can count as the first human behind the two aliens that are Marcel and Henrik,” Yule said.
“They’re both skiing at such a high level at the moment in slalom, this third place counts as a win.”
Kristoffersen was quick to retort that he was “just human”.
“I’m not superman, he’s the superman,” he said, pointing to Hirscher.
“There have been seven slalom races this season and I’ve been on the podium every time, but didn’t win before this, so it’s definitely a good feeling.
“There are still improvements to be made, that’s for sure. We have some stuff to work on and we are working on it but today was a good day.”