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Svindal moves into World Cup lead

Latest update : 2009-03-12

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the season's last downhill event at Are in Sweden, taking the overall World Cup lead with just three events to go. Austria's Michael Walchhofer secured the downhill trophy despite failing to finish the race.

AFP - Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won the season-ending downhill in Are on Wednesday to take the overall World Cup lead with just three events remaining.

Svindal, reigning world super combined champion and Super-G bronze medallist, clocked 1min 22.46sec to finish 0.20sec ahead of Switzerland's Didier Cuche with Sweden's Hans Olsson a further 0.16sec adrift.

The Norwegian now stands atop the overall standings with 929 points, with Austrian Benjamin Raich in second on 857pts and Cuche in third on 843.

Croatian Ivica Kostelic was the big loser of the day's racing, seeing his pre-race lead disappear after he failed to net a single point after finishing a disappointing 17th.

Austrian Michael Walchhofer crashed out on the course but still picked up the cristal globe for topping the World Cup downhill standings.

Walchhofer finished on 470 points, 46 ahead of compatriot Klaus Kroell and 107 in front of Swiss racer Didier Defago.

It was the third time Walchhofer has snapped up the downhill title after previous successes in 2005 and 2006.

"Things are going better and better for me," said Svindal. "I have to score as many points as possible in the speed events, so this start to the finals is very important for me.

"I'll not be taking many points during Saturday's slalom," said the Norwegian, a towering physical presence standing 1.95m tall and weighing 95 kilos.

"I hope things will be clear before the slalom," he stressed. "Personally, I'd prefer to watch it (the slalom) wrapped up warm in my bed!"

He added: "I can draw a lot of confidence from this win. When you have good results, it's easier to be more relaxed at the start, you know there's no need for magic.

"There's something about this piste. I've never had a bad run here."

Svindal's victory was another great result for a skier well en route to rebounding from a horror crash to re-establish himself on the international ski circuit.

The 26-year-old Norwegian suffered a terrible accident coming out of the spectacular "Golden Eagle" jump late in the run at Beaver Creak, Colorado, in November 2007.

Svindal, at the time the defending overall World Cup champion, suffered serious injuries including a double nose fracture, a broken cheekbone, the loss of several teeth and a deep cut to his left buttock.

He spent more than a week in hospital following the crash, including some time in intensive care.

But he has bounced back to claim the super combined title at the World Ski Championships and a Super-G bronze, and on Wednesday won his third downhill victory of the season on a slope where he won two golds (downhill, giant slalom) in the 2007 worlds.

Walchhofer said his downhill cristal globe had been important for his Austria team.

"It's great to have won a third downhill globe," said the 33-year-old who won Olympic silver in the downhill in 2006.

"And it's all the more important because it wasn't an Austrian who won the title over the last two years."

Date created : 2009-03-11