Aksel Lund Svindal

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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New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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