Aksel Lund Svindal
AP

Aksel Lund Svindal finds speed with knee on the mend

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal serves on the board of four technology startup companies. Where he’s truly chairman, though, is on the race hill.

Even at 34 and coming off another knee surgery, the Norwegian standout remains a racer the skiers are watching closely with the Olympics drawing near.

His resume reads like this: Five world championships, two World Cup overall crowns and an Olympic medal of every color from 2010.

“He’s old, he’s just coming back,” American downhiller Steven Nyman cracked, “but he’s strong. … The guy’s just feisty.”

These days, Svindal is spinning his wheels for the sake of expedited healing. He will ski hard one day, and then jump on a bike the next just to limit the swelling in his knee.

That routine keeps him hammering on the slope, no matter how painful it may be on occasion.

“Being older and coming back from multiple injuries, I think you do” have to be smarter, said Svindal, who will be one of the favorites in a World Cup super-G race Friday at the Birds of Prey (NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, 12:30 p.m. ET). “It’s hurting and gets swollen every once in a while. But it’s better than last year. I just have to be happy with progress.”

Svindal has been hit hard by injuries over the last few seasons — a torn Achilles while juggling the soccer ball in October 2014. An ACL tear in January 2016.

Then last January, a knee injury that turned out to much more complex than expected. He said the meniscus was ripped off and the surgeons had to drill a new hole into the femur to reattach it.

“It was like bone on bone,” Svindal said. “It was good to get that fixed again.”

Getting back up to speed has become a familiar part of the offseason for Svindal. Not by choice, obviously.

“I’ve gotten as used to it as you possibly can be if you’re a racer,” said Svindal, who finished 12th in a downhill training session Thursday, 1.6 seconds behind leader Matthias Mayer of Austria. “You can never get used to it. You at least can’t worry about it.”

His competitors think he looks as good as new (“He’s super good,” American Bryce Bennett said). His teammates believe that, too, with training partners Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Kjetil Jansrud having a front-row seat to his recovery.

“He’s always had a way of skiing and a way of handling things that are unique,” said Jansrud, who won the super-G in Lake Louise last weekend. “He’s been winning so much that he knows what it takes. That’s what separates a champion from not a champion.”

This certainly gave Svindal a dose of confidence: Finishing third in the downhill and fifth in the super-G at Lake Louise. It showed he’s on the right path.

Now, he’s back at Beaver Creek, a course that always suits his style of skiing. He’s captured three World Cup downhill races at this venue, along with a super-G and super-combined event.

It’s also the site of a haunting crash. Svindal broke his nose and cheekbone in a 2007 wipeout along the Birds of Prey course when he lost control on a jump and landed in the safety netting. He also suffered a laceration to his abdominal area.

He returned to Beaver Creek the next season and won the downhill and super-G races.

“I’ve been pretty good here in the past,” said Svindal, who turns 35 on Dec. 26.

Just don’t ask him about PyeongChang. Still too early.

“Pretty focused on what’s going to happen this week,” Svindal said.

In his downtime — and especially when he’s sidelined by injury — Svindal likes to do some investing.

More specifically, jump on board of startup companies that are small and “where you can get a seat on the board and learn about the business,” he said. “There are like these serial entrepreneurs who keep doing things because they’re smart. I try to tag with them if I can.”

Svindal treats working with a company much like competing in a race.

“You have to be on it,” Svindal said, “if you want to be successful.”

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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