Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing

Aksel Lund Svindal carries world downhill silver into retirement

After an emotional moment when he leaned back, stretched his arms and looked to the sky, Aksel Lund Svindal was all smiles despite finishing a close second to Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrun in the downhill - the final race of his career - at the world championships on Saturday.

Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud posts narrow win racing with broken left hand

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal reacts in the finish area following Saturday's men's downhill at the world championships in Are, Sweden, the final race of his career. He finished second behind teammate Kjetil Jansrud. (Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images)

If anyone had to beat Aksel Lund Svindal in his final race, he seemed just fine with it being Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud.

After an emotional moment when he leaned back, stretched his arms out and looked to the sky, Svindal was all smiles despite finishing a close second in the downhill at the world championships on Saturday in Are, Sweden.

Amid a crowd of thousands of flag-waving Norwegian fans, Svindal playfully pointed at Jansrud after finishing 0.02 seconds behind in a race that was characterized by thick fog and heavy snowfall, which caused an hour's delay.

WATCH | Aksel Lund Svindal finish career on positive note:

Watch Aksel Lund Svindal's silver-medal swan song, the downhill event at the alpine world championships in Are, Sweden, and listen to him reflect on the experience with CBC Sports following the final race of his career. 2:46

Jansrud had come down three racers earlier.

"Two-hundredths this way or two-hundredths that way, doesn't matter. Let's just enjoy this," said Svindal. "I was really relaxed, to be honest. It was a great show, a double Norwegian [show]."

'Taste of how a soccer player feels'

Already an Olympic champion in super-G at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this is Jansrud's first world title, adding to his two silvers at worlds. A big Liverpool soccer fan, he compared the feeling of skiing into a finish area filled with flag-waving Norwegian spectators to how he envisaged it would be like scoring a goal at Anfield.

WATCH | Kjetil Jansrud beat teammate Aksel Lund Svindal for world title:

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud beats his Norwegian teammate Aksel Lund Svindal by 0.02 seconds. 1:24

"It is one of the biggest come-to-the-finish moments of my career," said Jansrud. "I got a little taste of how a soccer player feels every weekend."

Svindal bowed to the roaring crowd during the flower ceremony.

"I've been sharing the podium quite a few times with Aksel in my career, so doing this on his last race and (at the) world championships is an honor. So this is a perfect day," Jansrud said.

Canada's Thomsen sets personal best

Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria came third, 0.33 behind, to add to his silver medal from super-G earlier in the week.

Canada's Ben Thomsen finished 0.42 seconds off the podium in a career-best seventh.

WATCH | Ben Thomsen close out his best-ever performance at worlds:

Ben Thomsen finishes 0.42 seconds off the podium in men's downhill event at world championships. 1:22

"My run was really good. I was really happy with the skiing," said Thomsen, a 31-year-old speed specialist who hasn't traditionally excelled on shortened courses. "It's an outdoor sport — you can't control Mother Nature. No matter the weather and the conditions, you always have to ski your best, and I'm happy that I skied my best.

"It just wasn't enough today. It's my best world champs ever — Thomsen also set a personal best in super-G this week in Are — and it's been my best season ever, so I'm really happy with everything."

The 36-year-old Svindal, the two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, announced last month that he would retire after this race.

I put everything I had in my heart and mind to get the gold today.— Men's downhill world champion Kjetil Jansrud of Norway

Jansrud was racing with a broken left hand following a fall in training in Kitzbuehel, Austria, 2 1/2 weeks ago. Doctors had told Jansrud to sit out for six weeks but he couldn't pass up the chance of racing at a worlds so close to home.

"They said [the injury] is not going to be good enough for Are," Jansrud said. "But somehow you get this singular focus to make it happen."

"This was something that I missed up until now," Jansrud added about his missed opportunities in previous worlds. "So that makes it bigger.

"I put everything I had in my heart and mind to get the gold today."

Already an Olympic champion in super-G at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this is Jansrud's first world title, adding to his two silvers at worlds.

"This was something that I missed up until now," Jansrud said. "So that makes it bigger."

Select company

While Svindal just missed out on a chance to become the first man to win the downhill world title three times, he still joined Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Marc Girardelli as the only skiers to collect a medal at six different world championships.

"This is more than I expected, to be honest," Svindal said. "I knew I was fast enough to win or take a medal, but to make it happen on the one day it counts is something else

"When I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll still be happy with this decision. It's time to kick back and enjoy this from the spectators side of everything."

Beat Feuz of Switzerland, the previous downhill champion, finished fourth, and former Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer of Austria came fifth.

Other Canadian results on Saturday:

  • Brodie Seger, North Vancouver, B.C. — 33rd
  • Jeffrey Read, Calgary — 41st

The women's downhill, which will be Lindsey Vonn's final race before she retires, is scheduled for Sunday.

With files from CBC Sports

Broadcast Partners

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.