VIENNA — Downhill world champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway will likely miss the entire ski season after tearing his Achilles tendon while playing soccer.
The Norwegian ski federation said that Svindal sustained the injury in Austria on Saturday — eight days before the men’s World Cup season starts with a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria.
The season also includes the world championships in Vail and Beaver Creek in February, where Svindal was set to defend his downhill title.
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"I was out for a little run with the rest of the team," Svindal wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday. "We ended the session playing around with a ball. Just holding it up in the air between us. Suddenly I felt something snap in my leg and I knew right away that something was wrong. Achilles."
Svindal said he was brought to a hospital in Innsbruck and underwent surgery shortly after.
"A real injury and extremely bad timing just as the season is about to start," the Norwegian said. "Nobody can say 100 percent sure how long the recovery will take, but I’m ready for the weeks that are coming."
Svindal added he planned to stay in Austria "for a while" before travelling to Oslo.
"He is probably out of the whole season," spokesman Claes-Tommy Herland of the Norwegian ski federation told The Associated Press in a phone call.
Svindal clinched the overall title in 2006 and 2009, and last season became the closest challenger of Marcel Hirscher on the Austrian’s way to a third straight overall title. The Norwegian won the crystal globes for leading the season’s downhill and super-G rankings, raising his number of World Cup discipline titles to nine.
Svindal isn’t unfamiliar to staging a comeback from injury after missing almost the entire 2007-08 season following a serious crash in training on the Birds of Prey downhill course in Beaver Creek. Svindal landed in the safety nettings and broke bones in his face and suffered a laceration to his groin and abdominal area.
Svindal returned and won his second overall title the next season, including gold in the super-combined at the 2009 world championship in Val d’Isere.
The 31-year-old Norwegian has won 11 medals at major championships, including three at the Vancouver Olympics, where he won gold in super-G, silver in downhill and bronze in GS.