Updated: January 24, 2013 6:51 AM | By Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press, thecanadianpress.com

Kroell leads final training before WCup downhill



Kroell leads final training before WCup downhill

Kjetil Jansrud from Norway takes a jump during a training session for Saturday's downhill World Cup race in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

KITZBUEHEL, Austria - Klaus Kroell is determined to become the first Austrian winner of the classic World Cup downhill on the Streif course since Michael Walchhofer in 2006.

The race has been dominated by Swiss skiers for the past five years, with now-retired Didier Cuche winning it four times and Olympic champion Didier Defago once.

"It's about time an Austrian wins it again," Kroell said after posting the fastest time in Thursday's final training. "The whole team is confident, me as well."

The Austrian World Cup downhill champion timed 1 minute, 57.74 seconds on the 3.3-kilometre course to lead Norwegian rivals Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud by 0.26 and 0.28, respectively.

"I was happy with my run. I had a much better feeling on the snow than yesterday," Kroell said. "I still wasn't 100 per cent clean though ... The course is pretty rough. You have to stay in the middle of your skis and always keep pressure on both of them."

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in 10th place.

Svindal leads the discipline standings and was fastest in the two previous trainings ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria.

Reichelt, like several other racers including Peter Fill of Italy and Jan Hudec of Canada, skipped the final training session.

Svindal was wary not to overrate his performances in the three training sessions.

"I've done 12 training runs this season and won six of them so I am fast on every course. But this is not the race," the former overall champion said. "The top is bumpy and dark so you don't see the bumps. It's hard to really ski the way want to because your skis seem to be in the air as much as they are on the snow."

Christof Innerhofer, who won the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen last Saturday, crashed but avoided injury. The Italian caught a bump and his ski clicked off with his right leg in the air.

"I tried to push from the beginning. I was on the right line but had no pressure on the outside ski," Innerhofer said. "I am in great shape, I feel really well. But ... I must try to take all the risks again. It's difficult to choose the right line in every part."

Innerhofer said he aimed for a top-five finish in either the super-G on Friday or the downhill race the next day. Both would mean his career-best result in Kitzbuehel.

Guillermo Fayed of France also crashed and landed in the safety nets but appeared unhurt as well.

After super-G and downhill, the 73th Hahnenkamm event ends with a slalom on Sunday. The added results of downhill and slalom also counts as a combined race.

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