Olympic downhill champion Svindal to retire after worlds
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal said a few days ago he will not race anymore before the world championships in February.
Turns out he will not race anymore after the worlds, either.
The Olympic downhill champion from Norway announced his retirement from ski racing Sunday, saying he plans to compete in the super-G on Feb. 6 and the downhill three days later at the championships in Are, Sweden, before calling it a career.
His persistent right knee injuries that hampered him in the last three years are preventing him from continuing.
“I will focus on the races in Are, they are my last races on top level,” said the 36-year-old Svindal, who announced his decision on the fringes of the classic Hahnenkamm event. “The decision has come over the last few weeks. Now I can give it all one more time and then it’s over.”
Svindal skipped this weekend’s races to rest his knee and he will also sit out next week’s speed events in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
While visiting Sunday’s super-G race, he said farewell to the thousands of ski fans along the Streif course.
“Ciao, thanks, it was an honor,” said an emotional Svindal, who has won four Olympic and eight world championship medals, and earned the overall World Cup title twice in 2007 and 2009.
While he returned from severe injuries many times in his 17-year World Cup career, the damage to his right knee after a frightening downhill crash in Kitzbuehel in 2016 proved too much.
He tore his ACL and meniscus, but still managed a return to top-level racing. He even won the Olympic downhill in Pyeongchang a year ago, but was in so much constant pain that he considered quitting last summer.
He gave it one more go, carefully picking the races he competed in this season. He scored three podium results, including a super-G win in Val Gardena, Italy, in December.
A week ago, Svindal finished fourth in the iconic Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen, but his right knee took another knock during Tuesday’s training for the traditional downhill in Kitzbuehel.
It forced him to skip the Streif downhill, robbing him of a final chance to win the only major race missing from his list of successes.
“It feels a bit surreal to say it’s over,” Svindal said. “But mentally it’s the right way to say you quit, better than just wait and see if you can race or not.”
By ending his career in Are, he will close a circle as he won his first world titles, in downhill and giant slalom, at the worlds at the same Swedish resort in 2007.
“Racing in Are is really cool,” said Svindal, who named the 2007 worlds among his career highlights. “The duels with Benni (Raich) for the overall title, the Olympics, I had a lot of cool moments. So I am not sad to leave. At some point the time is there to sit on the couch and enjoy the races on TV.”