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Alpine skiing: Svindal the attacking Viking strikes again

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Aksel Lund Svindal took a step further into the pantheon of Norwegian skiing greats with his dominant victory in the men's downhill at the World Ski Championships.

Svindal, part of the self-proclaimed "Attacking Vikings" team, produced a masterclass in speed skiing on the surprisingly tricky Planai to enhance his position as one of the sport's greats.

The 30-year-old's victory saw him draw level with compatriot Kjetil-Andre Aamodt with five world gold medals. Only Austrian Toni Sailer (seven) and France's Jean-Claude Killy (six) have won more golds on the world stage.

Svindal, with eight, still has some way to go to match Aamodt's record overall tally of 12 world medals, which also included four silver and three bronzes.

Another Norwegian, Lasse Kjus, also has 11 world medals: three gold and eight silvers.

Aamodt is now retired but, working as a television consultant, was in Schladming to watch Svindal win, exactly one year before the discipline is raced at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

"He was a big favourite. Just to be able to put down a run like that on a day when he's the biggest favourite is amazing," Aamodt said.

"It was difficult conditions, he risked everything. He looked so strong all the way, there was no doubt he'd get a gold medal today."

Aamodt, who won an amazing 20 medals at the worlds and Olympics combined, said Svindal was also one to pull out top performances on the bigger stage.

"Aksel really likes the big events. He's also done well on the World Cup. He's an all-round skier and that's an advantage when you do the big events," Aamodt said.

"He likes the pressure. When it comes to Olympics or world championships, he says 'hey, this is special'. He's not afraid to face the pressure, that's the secret maybe."

Svindal said he was not even contemplating trying to break Aamodt's record.

"It's always in danger," he joked. "But there's a difference between being in danger and being in real danger!

"I would have to ski until I'm almost 40, and for that to happen, there's a lot of things you need: to be healthy, motivated.

"Touch wood I'm all those things right now. I feel like I've done a lot in my career and I'm only still halfway there, so the record's not something I think about."

Svindal added that it was not the physicality of skiing that might speed his withdrawal from the sport, but rather spending his life in the public eye all season.

"Being a ski racer is a pretty tough life," he said. "You only race for two minutes a day but you're always in the public.

"It would never be the skiing that would stop me from doing what I'm doing but the energy it takes of being in public."

He admitted, however, that he was unlikely to call it a day any time soon given the sensations he still harbours when racing.

"I want to be fast," he said in explanation of his ongoing motivation.

"The feelings you have at the start of the race... It's that excitement, the nerves, the adrenalin, the competitiveness.

"You go through extreme emotions. It's hard to think about how it would be living a normal life."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130209/alpine-skiing-svindal-the-attacking-viking-strikes-again