Kjetil Jansrud wins first World Cup downhill of season
VAL D'ISERE, France (AP) Norway dominated, Kjetil Jansrud won, Austria struggled.
The first downhill of the men's World Cup season on Saturday traced the same path down the sun-soaked Val d'Isere course as the super-G one day earlier.
Jansrud has gone 2-for-2 in the first speed races with teammate Aksel Lund Svindal defying expectations after a 10-month injury absence to join him again on the podium.
Relying on technical skills ahead of pure speed, Jansrud was 0.26 seconds faster than Peter Fill of Italy, the defending World Cup downhill champion, down the 3.4-kilometer (2-mile) Oreiller-Killy course.
''It's an amazing beginning,'' said Jansrud, who won the season-long downhill title in 2015. ''You never know, but I hoped for sure for a start like this.''
Svindal, who was runner-up on Friday, placed third, trailing 0.33 behind his fellow Norwegian. Only the top three finished in under two minutes.
''I'm very satisfied,'' said Svindal, who lacked stamina after limited top-level training since rupturing his right ligaments in January. ''It's a very hard landing (on the jumps) and I took a second before I got my breath.''
For the second straight day, Norway and Italy filled the podium and the traditionally powerful Austria team was never in contention.
The best placed Austrian, in 17th, was Olympic champion Matthias Mayer who came down 1.45 slower than Jansrud.
''It was a terrible day,'' Austria team director Hans Pum told The Associated Press. ''In the last 40 years I can't remember many like this. We have to analyze exactly what has happened.''
Austria's winless streak in the marquee downhill discipline extended to 13 races since Hannes Reichelt won at Kvitfjell, Norway, in March 2015.
Norway has now won eight of those 13 downhills, with Svindal, Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde all taking victories for a small but high-class team.
''Everyone will start screaming in the Austrian media, for sure,'' said Jansrud, adding he was not surprised at the rival team's result, citing Mayer returning from a back injury and Reichelt slowed by knee pains.
''We need to have fast Austrians to keep the entertainment coming and the spectators coming,'' said Jansrud, who took downhill bronze behind Mayer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Jansrud's win on Saturday was keyed by skiing well through a turning middle section in the shadows where rivals typically lost at least a half-second to him.
The lead was threatened by Steven Nyman before the United States racer strayed wide into rough snow midway down. Nyman placed 15th, ending his streak of four straight top-three finishes in downhill.
While Jansrud was only 18th fastest at either of the two speed checks, Fill was the only racer to hit 122 kph (76 mph).
''I'm surprised for my performance,'' said Fill, who took the downhill crystal trophy last season by edging ahead of Svindal, who missed the last five races after crashing at Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Austria's slow start ''is not really my problem,'' Fill said. ''They have good skiers. For me, it's better that they don't go too fast.''
Marcel Hirscher, the five-time defending overall World Cup winner, will seek to restore Austrian pride in a giant slalom on Sunday.
Val d'Isere hosted a World Cup downhill for the first time in 10 seasons.
The French resort took over a three-race weekend meeting which was cancelled at Beaver Creek, Colorado, because of lack of snow.