Jansrud wins 3rd straight World Cup race
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Kjetil Jansrud can't ever remember a run like this, where he didn't make so much as one tiny slipup on a tricky course designed to tax and tease skiers.
The Norwegian settled into the perfect line, smoothly glided through the bumpy course and moments after crossing the finish line stuck out both arms as if he were soaring.
These days, it sure seems that way. Jansrud extended his World Cup streak to three straight races with a downhill victory Friday.
The 29-year-old finished in 1 minute, 40.17 seconds to hold off Beat Feuz by 0.54 seconds after the Swiss skier made a late push. American Steven Nyman was third for his first podium spot in two years.
''It's as close to a perfect run as I could've had,'' said Jansrud, who became the first male skier to win three straight events since Austria's Marcel Hirscher in 2012. ''Felt solid all the way.''
Jansrud kept the Birds of Prey downhill title in the Norwegian family. Teammate Aksel Lund Svindal couldn't defend his crown after tearing his Achilles tendon playing soccer in October.
Jumping out of the start gate, Jansrud was slightly behind Nyman's early pace. But then Jansrud took off, finding a way to generate maximum speed, much as he did in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend when he swept the two speed races.
His competitors are now searching for ways to keep up, same as they did when Svindal was at his best on the slopes.
''Jansrud's on fire,'' said American Travis Ganong, who finished fifth despite a recent puncture fracture he suffered at the top of his shin in a training mishap. ''He's unbeatable.''
With no Svindal this season, Jansrud has the added pressure of leading the way for the Norwegians.
So far, so good, with the country now winning four of the opening five men's events. Henrik Kristoffersen accounted for the other victory - a slalom race in Levi, Finland.
''I'm glad I can perform when Aksel's gone,'' said Jansrud, who earned the gold medal in the super-G and a bronze in the downhill at the Sochi Games last February. ''Otherwise, the questions would be the other way around. I'd have a huge problem explaining why I can't be fast with Aksel gone. But I don't feel like I'm stepping out of (his) shadow. It's an individual sport and I'm happy for myself.''
He's also taken a sizeable lead in the overall standings, holding a 136-point edge over the defending champion Hirscher.
''It's not my biggest goal of the season, but if I keep my good shape, I hope to compete with him for the overall,'' said Jansrud, who joked that his long hair was the result of traveling away from home rather than a new fashion statement. ''Hopefully, for everybody at home it's going to be exciting.''
Nyman found his run ''super encouraging,'' returning to the podium for the first time since he won in Val Gardena, Italy, on Dec. 15, 2012. It's been a tumultuous few seasons for him, dealing with back, knee and Achilles tendon injuries. He also slipped to the U.S. squad's ''B'' team, meaning he has to pay $20,000 out of his own pocket to race this season.
''It's tough sometimes,'' said Nyman, who's from Sundance, Utah. ''When that was placed upon you and knowing I've won World Cups and been on the podium several times, and ask you to pay $20,000 to do your job? That's hard.''
''A goal of mine is consistency,'' he added. ''I've always been up and down.''
Nyman nearly was joined on the podium by Ganong, who had an electric run going, before finishing fifth.
''I feel really balanced on my skis,'' Ganong said. ''It's fun to attack and push hard and see what happens. It's great to see Steven step up and get a podium. We feed off each other.''
It looked as if Nyman might wind up second, only to be pushed down a spot when Feuz, who started 25th. His career has been hampered in recent seasons because of a balky left knee.
''The knee will never be 100 percent again,'' Feuz said through an interpreter.
That's what makes this podium finish so satisfying for him.
''The story is almost bigger than I can imagine,'' Feuz said. ''It's almost too much.''