Norwegian downhill racer Aksel Lund Svindal not only amazed ski enthusiasts over the weekend. He also earned a spot in the history of the sport when he became one of the most-winning skiers ever, right where it all began.
It was exactly 10 years ago, at the Lake Louise ski resort in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, that Svindal won his first World Cup race. On Saturday he launched this year’s World Cup season by rocketing down the slopes of Lake Louise to clinch the men’s downhill.
That was almost enough to celebrate for the 32-year-old veteran, because it was his first World Cup victory in 699 days. Svindal had to sit out almost the entire season last year after tearing his Achilles just before it began.
His breathtaking comeback on Saturday drew cheers from well-wishers, and then he did it again: Svindal also skied the same course on which he won a decade ago, to also win the Super-G on Sunday.
And that’s what won him a spot on a list of the 10 alpine skiers who have piled up the most World Cup victories in history. Svindal now has 27, compared to 21 for fellow Norwegian Kjetil André Aamodt. The skier who still tops the list is Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, with 86 World Cup victories.
Svindal’s 27 remain impressive, especially his weekend performance after a year of hardly being able to ski at all. Svindal himself says the forced break from the sport helped him, both physically and mentally.
“It was good for my head,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday. “Instead of stressing and being on the borderline health-wise, it was good to have more time for my overall condition.”
Building up from the bottom
He used his time well, as his severed tendon mended, even though he often felt completely down and out. That, he said, allowed him to build himself up again.
“I got the peace and the opportunity to take things step by step and start at the bottom,” Svindal told NRK. “That’s great for your head, to be able to do things properly instead of being under constant pressure and having limited time to only do things half-way. That was great.”
The international ski federation (FIS) called Svindal “the hero of the first speed races” during a “thrilling weekend in Lake Louise.” Marius Arnesen, NRK’s skiing commentator, called Svindal an “extremely great alpinist. It’s hard to put it into words. What he’s done is just fantastic.”