Svindal, Miller back from injuries, plan to race at worlds
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal will compete in just about anything, even who can return faster from surgery.
This race, though, between friendly rivals was almost too close to call.
A little over two months removed from a procedure to fix a herniated disk in his back, the 37-year-old Miller said Monday he's hoping to race in the super-G, downhill and possibly the super-combined at the world championships.
Later that day, and not to be outdone, Svindal, the standout from Norway, announced he was going to test out his torn left Achilles in a downhill training session Tuesday to see if it can hold up to the rigors of racing. Svindal had what was thought to be season-ending surgery in October.
Although they're on the mend, no way these two veterans - with a combined 781 World Cup starts and nine Olympic medals - can be any sort of factor at worlds, right?
''I wouldn't be surprised if either one of them is on the podium in this world championships,'' said Norwegian skier Kjetil Jansrud, who won the super-G at the Sochi Olympics. ''Aksel's been injured before and knows what it takes to get back. And Bode, he's such a good skier that he can show up anywhere and do well if his back is OK.
''It's good for the sport, having the big stars back.''
The 32-year-old Svindal's return in time for worlds was somewhat of a stunner. Even his doctors didn't think he'd be back this soon. Svindal will wear a boot that has some of the foam taken out, since his Achilles is now about four times its original size. But there's no longer any pain.
Still, Svindal's a little fearful of one thing - being slow.
''The only risk would be that I (stink). That's a risk I'm willing to take,'' said Svindal, the defending world champion in the downhill. ''If you don't race, you don't have a chance. At least I'm here and have a chance of making something happen.''
Same goes for Miller, who's from Franconia, New Hampshire. This is a course that favors his aggressive style of skiing. He's won four times on the Birds of Prey course.
''Everything went as well as I could've hope,'' Miller said of his recovery. ''I'm here and ready to race.
''I'm going to try to win the races. If I'm healthy enough to make it down, that's sort of my goal.''
Here are some things to know as the men start world championships Wednesday with a super-G race:
TRIFECTA: Ted Ligety, of Park City, Utah, certainly has a lot on his plate at worlds as he tries to defend his super-G, giant slalom and super-combined titles from two years ago in Austria. No added pressure, he insisted. At least not yet. ''Defending all three would be a dream come true, but I don't think that's necessarily the most realistic expectation,'' Ligety said. ''I'm going to try to ski hard and I think these hills are really good for me. If there's a place where it would be possible to repeat, this would be one of the better places. It's not something I'm consumed about.''
A CUT ABOVE: Jansrud has been winning races this season with his hair long, but recently decided to get it cut. ''Stupid, huh?'' Jansrud said. ''We'll see how well that works out. I did it in Aspen. It wasn't the cheapest haircut I've ever had.''
MARVELOUS MARCEL: Want to watch a skier with perfect tempo on the course? Check out Marcel Hirscher of Austria. He leads the World Cup overall standings as he tries to win his fourth straight. Hirscher also is the reigning world champion in the slalom.
WAR HORSE: The bigger the stage, the better Andrew Weibrecht, of Lake Placid, New York, seems to ski. He can't exactly figure why that is, either. In 107 World Cup starts, the skier nicknamed ''War Horse'' has never been on the podium. But in Olympic super-G starts, he's 2 for 2 - capturing third at the 2010 Vancouver Games and second in Sochi last February. ''Just really fortunate timing,'' said Weibrecht, who took fifth during a super-G in Austria on Jan. 23, his best-ever World Cup finish. ''For sure, there's a lot more energy (at big events).''
SKI LIKE IT'S 1999: There could be four skiers in the field who participated in the 1999 world championships at Beaver Creek: Austria's Benjamin Raich, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, Mexico's Hubertus Von Hohenlohe and Miller. ''It's a long time ago,'' Miller said.