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Alpine skiing: Svindal reclaims world downhill title


Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal reclaimed the men's world downhill title here Saturday to win his eighth world championship medal and second in Schladming after a super-G bronze.

The 2007 downhill world champion and Olympic silver-medallist dominated the race with a masterful run that saw him cross the finish line in a time of 2min 01.32sec.

Italy's Dominik Paris was second at 0.46sec, with France's David Poisson winning bronze at 0.97sec.

For the Austrian contingent, briefly buoyed by Nicole Hosp's super-combined bronze on Friday, it was another day of disappointment, after the men's and women's super-G fiascos earlier in the week.

Local boy Klaus Kroell, last season's downhill World Cup winner, finished just off the podium, handing Austria yet another fourth place.

The ski-mad nation's last downhill world title goes back to 2003.

Svindal, who now adds a fifth world champion title to his trophy collection, was ecstatic in the finish area.

"I knew I couldn't do it better," said the towering 30-year-old.

"It's better to really go all out and make a few tiny mistakes than be perfect. I took a lot of risks, didn't make any big mistakes and thank goodness, I made it into the finish."

Downhill World Cup leader Paris, 23, added: "I tried to keep up and I'm glad I could.

"I didn't think I'd make such a good run, that I'd get this far."

The 30-year-old Poisson, who has never yet made a World Cup podium and has just seven top-10 finishes in nine seasons, saw a natural progression from his results in Kitzbuehel two weeks ago.

"Last race I was fourth, now I'm third. It's logical!" he said, laughing. It was amazingly only France's second medal-winning performance in a world downhill since 1968.

"I'm proud of my medal."

Kroell said he struggled to make it to the bottom of the course.

"It already didn't start so well at the top but at the bottom I really had to fight hard," the Austrian said.

"I lost energy unfortunately and wasn't able to attack anymore... at the last split I actually thought I won't make it anymore."

The 3,334m-long (two-mile) icy and twisting course, which saw the skiers hurtling down at speeds approaching 110 kilometres per hour, left numerous casualties in its wake, including many of the favourites for gold.

Reigning downhill champion Erik Guay of Canada was well placed to defend his title with the fastest time in the first sections when he made a costly mistake. Unable to get back into his stride, he failed to finish the race.

Austria's other big hope Hannes Reichelt, who had been fastest in the first downhill training run and was fighting for a medal after just missing out on a podium in the super-G on Wednesday, missed a gate after a bad landing from a jump and also went out.

"I'm really lucky that I'm here and healthy because I was on the limit of a crash," he said.

Italy's Christof Innerhofer, defending his bronze medal from Garmisch, finished 14th, more than 2sec behind Svindal.

Less steep than the classic runs of Wengen, Kitzbuehel, Bormio or Val d'Isere, the Planai course featured perilous traverses and rolls that prompted impressive jumps through the air.

A tricky last bend also saw numerous skiers go far off their line and lose precious time as they struggled to make the last gate before the finish line.

Started under clear conditions, visibility increasingly worsened as fog descended on parts of the course and amid light snowfall.

"I can't see anything!" Slovenia's Andrej Sporn, with start number six, shouted as he arrived in the finish area, despite temporarily taking the lead.

The blue riband race of the world championships, the downhill played out in front of a packed arena, filled with thousands of colourfully-dressed fans, waving an abundance of Austrian flags and blowing the nation's answer to the vuvuzela, the truck air-horn.

Among the onlookers were Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Hollywood actor Kevin Costner, who was due to give a free open-air concert in the evening with his band "Modern West."