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Svindal wins DH in Schladming; Kroell clinches DH title

Wed 14th, March 2012

Schladming, Austria (Sports Network) - Aksel Lund Svindal put his mark on the final World Cup downhill race of the season, making the race in Schladming - the last race of 2011-12 - his best of the season, notching his first win, surging ahead of Beat Feuz by more than a half a second as Austrian Hannes Reichelt drew a loud roar from the crowd coming in third. With a time of 1 minute, 46.81 seconds, Svindal left the second and third ranked skiers respectively 0.57 and 0.67 seconds behind.

The most raucous cheers however, came when Klaus Kroell - seventh in the race - nabbed the World Cup downhill title, finishing the season with 605 points as Beat Feuz was second with 598 and Didier Cuche - whose final career downhill race was a wild affair, including a near crash - ended up third in the final standings with 521 points.

One couldn't have wished for a better opening race of the 2012 Finals- while Svindal seemed rather safe at the top of the race podium, until the very end of the race the battle for the discipline title was open until the very end of the race between Klaus Kroell, Beat Feuz and Didier Cuche.

"It's just amazing," Kroell said. "It's just unbelievable and I'm speechless. To win the Downhill cup has been my big dream and to actually do it is something special. I must say I was almost more nervous waiting at the bottom, not knowing if I would actually manage to hold on to it. Than Jansrud started and was skiing really well until he went out, I was more nervous watching that than skiing my run. Just after crossing the finish line, I thought I lost the cup- I didn't ski well today so until the very end I was waiting to see how things develop. I was so relieved after Jansrud... For me winning here is special, I have all my family and friends here so I couldn't have wished for more"

Even though they were racing against each other this morning, Kroell has great respect for Cuche and will for sure miss having him on the Tour after he retires at the end of these Finals.

"Didier is one of the biggest skier over the last years and I wish him all the best in the upcoming years and in his life," he said about Cuche's retirement.

Svindal seems to be warming up as the season is headed towards the end- today he finally got his first season's win. In just 24 hours, the Norwegian champion went from falling in Wednesday's first Downhill training, to being the skier with the fastest time down the mountain in today's race.

"I'm really happy I won today- especially after my crash yesterday," a happy Svindal was saying while former Austrian Downhill champion Michael Walchofer comes up to congratulate him.

"Now, after today's result I almost wish the season was longer...but on the other hand I am tired and am also ready to get some time off and go on vacation. My big race is on schedule tomorrow; I am still in the run for the Super G title so today was the best test I could have had. I am always better at turning than going straight so we'll see. I first have to see the course today but winning today definitely gives me some confidence."

All skiers were full of praise for Cuche who's last Downhill might not have gone as he wished.

"I feel sorry for Cuche, he made a mistake today but I can say that there is no Downhill racer who has more respect from the skiers than he has. He could have won today or come last but if you ask anyone in the world who knows skiing about him- they will tell you he is the best Downhill skier there is. Well, today maybe I am...but in general he is," Svindal added laughing.

Beat Feuz might not have stolen the title form Kroell today, but he was able to add 80 really important points to his Overall account. It also seems as if he was not really bothered by the fact that he missed the small globe by just seven points, he is focused on the "bigger picture", in this case the Overall.

"It's fantastic for me- I might have not won the Downhill Cup but the points I collected are extremely important for the Overall. I took some chances in today's race and it paid off, I am really happy. Another good thing is that my knee is holding up great, in both Downhill and Super G I really can't complain about it. There are a lot of things that make it hard for me to focus on the course, I did not ski great in yesterday's training and with all the pressure there is these days about the Overall- today was a really pleasant surprise. "

Cuche was obviously not happy after losing the chance to win his fifth Downhill title but eventual

"I think this was not the day I wanted or expected," Cuche said. "I am not so disappointed about missing the globe- would definitely be nice to have a fifth one in Downhill but I am more annoyed about the race today. After skiing so many races and having so many great results, finishing my Downhill career with a race like this is disappointing. Pressure is always here and I knew I had to push hard, I exaggerate with the pressure on my edges at the point where I fell down, but in the end I must be happy I made a recovery and was able to ski down safe. Now my plan is to race the Super G, I can still win something there and than I will maybe start thinking about some holidays."

Hannes Reichelt lost a bet with his coach and what was at stake was his bedroom.

The deal was that if Reichelt won he would have been allowed by his team to sleep at home (he lives a few kilometers out of Schladming) but by loosing he joined the team at the local hotel.

"After today, my coaches might even let me go home but I have no plan of asking- things are working out this way and for as much as I would appreciate sleeping in my own bed, I will stay where I am," Reichelt showed a bit of superstition.

"I had a great result to finish off the Downhill season," Reichelt said about his third place. "With Klaus [Kroell] winning the title today... it's great to be part of a team where you can say you have the best Downhill skier in the world as your teammate. It's really good to do these test events here before the World Championships in Schladming and I am happy to say that we have a great slope here and I can be good on it. I have one more race to go before I wrap up this season and even though today was a great day for the Austrian team and we would all like to celebrate, I need to focus one more time before I wrap up this season."

Tomorrow the men will be competing in the last Super G of the season and currently there are three names, which could clinch the title. With 413 points, Svindal is currently in the lead but Didier Cuche sits second, 42 points behind. After failing to say goodbye to his favorite discipline in the way he wanted, Cuche might have some extra motivation in tomorrow's Super G race. Feuz showed he was on to watch on the new slope in Schladming and by sitting in third position, 45 points behind Svindal and 3 points behind Cuche he is more than capable of overtaking the title.

With a 135 points lead in front of Hirscher in the Overall, he has a lot at stake whichever way we look at it and it will for sure be interesting to see with which globe in mind he will be skiing in tomorrow's race.

OFFICIAL RESULTS - Schladming, Austria

Men's Downhill

1. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR, 1:46.81; 2. Beat Feuz, SUI, 1:47.38; 3. Hannes Reichelt, AUT, 1:47.48; 4. Didier Defago, SUI, 1:47.65; 5. Benjamin Raich, AUT, 1:47.79; 6. Yannick Bertrand, FRA, 1:47.84; 7. Klaus Kroell, AUT, 1:47.85; 8. Jan Hudec, CAN, 1:48.05; 9. Adrien Theaux, FRA, 1:48.15; 10. Benjamin Thomsen, CAN, 1:48.16.

Other North Americans

13. Erik Guay, CAN, 1:48.42.

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