Norway

Aksel Lund Svindal wins first race in nearly 2 years (video)

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Aksel Lund Svindal returned from a career-threatening injury to win in Beaver Creek. It’s a familiar script.

Svindal, who bagged a medal of every color at the 2010 Olympics, captured the Birds of Prey World Cup downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo., by .15 of a second on Saturday.

It’s his 33rd World Cup victory but the first since Jan. 22, 2016, one day before he tore his right ACL in a spectacular crash at the famed Hahnenkammm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria (video here).

“I’ve had two knee surgeries, so that’s a lot of rehab,” Svindal said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “Just patience, I guess. Looking forward to moments like this. … Comeback was kind of a no-brainer. I really wanted it. When it works out like this, it’s perfect.”

Austrian Beat Feuz was second on Saturday, followed by Thomas Dressen, the first German man to make a World Cup downhill podium in nearly 13 years.

The U.S. failed to put a man in the top 15 of a seventh straight World Cup race, its longest drought since 2000. Bryce Bennett was 21st.

Full results are here.

Svindal, who turns 35 on Dec. 26, suffered his most harrowing crash at Beaver Creek a decade ago (video here). The result: facial fractures, an eight-inch deep laceration caused by his ski and several missing teeth. A four-hour, emergency medical procedure involved opening him up further to ensure his internal organs had not become infected.

Svindal spent two weeks in a Vail hospital and lost 30 pounds of muscle mass in a five-month recovery period.

“If I was going to crash anywhere, then I think this would be the best place in the world to do it,” Svindal joked Saturday. “Best hospital I’ve ever been to.”

Svindal returned to Beaver Creek the following fall and won both the Birds of Prey downhill and super-G en route to his second World Cup overall title.

“I’ve been here before, so I felt pretty confident,” Svindal said Saturday. “It worked out.”

Svindal has struggled staying healthy since early 2014. He went medal-less in Sochi while slowed by allergies and fatigue.

The Norwegian then missed most of the 2014-15 season after rupturing an Achilles tendon playing soccer eight days before the World Cup opener.

Then came that Kitzbuehel spill, which also caused meniscus and cartilage damage.

Svindal raced just four times last season (making three podiums) before calling it off due to persistent right knee pain that required more surgery.

Svindal showed his mettle upon return this season, finishing third in his debut in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend. He’s a bona fide Olympic medal favorite in the downhill and a super-G contender.

The World Cup season continues in Beaver Creek with a giant slalom Sunday featuring Olympic champion Ted Ligety (Olympic Channel, 2:30 p.m. ET).

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Aksel Lund Svindal finds speed with knee on the mend

Aksel Lund Svindal
AP
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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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Magnus Carlsen: Chess deserves Olympic priority over esports

Magnus Carlsen
Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
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The rise of esports has many wondering if it will soon apply for and receive Olympic inclusion.

Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion since 2013, believes his trade deserves priority.

“Chess has centuries, even millenia of history, which esports, obviously, they don’t,” Carlsen said by phone after competing in the Champions Showdown at the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. “Personally, for me, it wouldn’t make sense [for esports to get in the Olympics first].”

The first step to being added to the Olympics is having an international governing body recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

World Chess is recognized by the IOC. Esports does not have a recognized body.

Around 30 international federations for sports that aren’t currently in the Olympics are recognized by the IOC, including American football (provisionally), life saving and tug of war.

Since chess was recognized by the IOC in 1999, the sport and many others have repeatedly applied for and been denied Olympic inclusion.

“Obviously, I’d love for chess to be part of the Olympics,” said Carlsen, adding that he has not lobbied on the sport’s behalf to any Olympic leaders. “I think that would be tremendously exciting for all chess players and fans, but there are always difficult questions like, does it belong in the Winter or Summer Olympics and all these things. There are lots of sports applying for the Olympics. So it’s difficult.”

In 2000, a chess exhibition was held at the Sydney Olympics.

Recent attempts pushed for blitz chess, a faster form of the sport, to join the Olympics. World Chess also sought if the Olympic Charter language could be changed to allow a sport that isn’t played on snow or ice into the Winter Games.

Previously, chess officials reportedly said that chess pieces could be made out of ice to conform to the Olympic Charter language for winter sports.

“There are people who are questioning whether or not it’s an actual sport,” Carlsen said. “Obviously, that’s the first question. To me it is. But I think it’s also a question of there are just so many sports that want to be part of the Olympics. You cannot include everything.”

Carlsen said he attended the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games with his family when he was 3 years old.

“I cannot remember much, but I can remember glimpses of the cross-country races there,” he said.

During the 1998 Nagano Olympics, his mom taped cross-country skiing, Nordic combined or biathlon events so that Carlsen could watch them after school.

Carlsen’s popularity in Norway rivals — even surpasses — that of the country’s winter sports stars.

Carlsen was named Norway’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2013 after he became world champion for the first time at age 22. That snapped a streak of nine straight years in which the sportsperson winner was an Olympian.

In 2016, Carlsen defended his world title in New York City, beating Russian Sergey Karyakin in a tense, 20-day series decided by a tiebreaker.

Norwegian media swarmed South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

National broadcaster NRK aired live coverage of matches in primetime, with a studio desk dissecting moves. National newspaper VG covered it with banner headlines in typical tabloid fashion.

The 2016 Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year winner was not Carlsen. He finished third. Journalists voted for soccer player Ada Hegerberg, with Alpine skier Henrik Kristoffersen taking second.

Where does Carlsen believe he ranks?

“I’ll leave that for others to compare,” he said. “I’m just very happy that chess is being recognized the way that it is.”

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