Gold, silver and bronze for Aksel Lund Svindal
Norwegian Alpine star Aksel Lund Svindal left Vancouver with a gold, silver and bronze medal. A world champion at both junior and senior levels, the Norwegian had competed in all five Alpine events in Turin four years previously, but failed to take a medal, his best result coming in the super-G, where he placed fifth. Though his promise was plain to see, his trophy cabinet remained empty.
After winning the overall World Cup title in 2007 he suffered a racing accident that sidelined him for almost a year. His comeback was spectacular, as he regained the overall World Cup title in 2009 and hit a rich vein of form in the lead-up to the Vancouver Games.
This time, he entered just four events. The first of them was the downhill, an epic contest, in which the top three finishers were separated by less than a tenth of a second. Svindal lost time at the top of the course to trail Bode Miller by 0.79 seconds, but skied the middle and bottom sections perfectly to dip past the American by 0.02 seconds. His run was still not enough for gold, which went to Didier Défago, who came in 0.07 seconds faster.
Nevertheless, thanks to Lund’s performance Norway became the first country to win 100 silver medals at the Winter Olympics.
He soon atoned for his disappointment at missing out on downhill glory by taking the honours in the super-G. Third to race, the USA’s Andrew Weibrecht set the early pace, only for his compatriot Bode Miller to eclipse his time by 0.03 seconds. Svindal then launched into his run. Making a less than perfect start, he trailed Miller by 0.3 seconds at the split, but, just as he did in the downhill, the Norwegian raised his game, stopping the clock 0.28 seconds ahead of Miller to make the gold medal his. Weibrecht hung on for a bronze, an amazing result for a skier who had never finished higher than tenth in a World Cup race.
Svindal did not stop there, going on to claim a bronze in the giant slalom, just behind team-mate Kjetil Jansrud. His good fortune came to an end in the combined, however. Fastest in the downhill leg, Svindal missed a gate in the slalom and failed to register a time.
The setback did not take the gloss off his overall performance, with Svindal leaving Vancouver as one of the Games’ standout athletes and the proud owner of a medal of each colour.