Updated: January 23, 2013 1:28 PM | By Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press, thecanadianpress.com

Svindal fastest again in WCup downhill training



Svindal fastest again in WCup downhill training

Aksel Lund Svindal 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 - Aksel Lund Svindal has never had much success in the Kitzbuehel downhill, but still finds himself a firm favourite to win Saturday's classic World Cup race on the Streif course.

The Norwegian had the fastest run in training for a second straight day on Wednesday, timing 1 minute, 57.48 seconds in sunny conditions on the challenging 3.3-kilometre course.

Svindal, who leads this season's downhill standings, has only one career top-10 finish in the Kitzbuehel downhill, placing fifth three years ago.

"I haven't mastered this course until now, but this year I am feeling confident," said Svindal, who trails leader Marcel Hirscher in the overall standings by 188 points. The Austrian doesn't compete in downhills.

"The first section is icy and bumpy. It's hard to ski perfectly there," Svindal said. "From there on, it's a great course to attack."

Svindal, who had two podium finishes in super-G here, said he was ready to chase his first downhill win.

"I like skiing the super-G more than the downhill," Svindal said. "But I'd prefer winning the downhill. Doing that in Kitzbuehel makes you a legend."

Similar to Tuesdays' first training, Svindal led second-place Hannes Reichelt of Austria by 0.25.

Andrej Sporn of Slovenia finished third, 0.52 off the lead, and defending World Cup downhill champion Klaus Kroell of Austria was 0.76 behind in fifth.

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in 13th.

It was Kroell's first complete run after interrupting his training on Tuesday following clouds of fog moving over the course, which he didn't get warned about by jury members on the slope.

"I hope it was a wake-up call for all and doesn't happen again," Kroell said. "There are only professionals on the hill. Racers do their best so that's what we also expect from people responsible for safety."

Svindal considered skipping the third and final training session and take some rest on Thursday.

"Maybe I've seen enough of the course," Svindal said. "On the other hand, it's not really a rest day lying on bed in the hotel while the others are on the hill."

Reichelt, who shared victory with Italy's Dominik Paris at the Bormio downhill last month, was surprised by his own performance.

"I am almost a bit worried being that fast in training. But it feels good," said Reichelt, adding he had to go even faster in the race.

Sporn finished runner-up to Swiss great Didier Cuche here three years ago and said he had "really big expectations."

"The course has harder snow (than Tuesday) and I had better grip. From the start I was pushing more," the Slovenian said. "This is real Kitzbuehel, hard and tough snow, you need to ski your best."

Sporn's teammate Andrej Jerman suffered a concussion after crashing in Tuesday's training. Sporn said he put the incident out of his mind.

"That can happen to anybody," Sporn said. "Every downhill is dangerous, every little mistake can have consequences. We have to live with these risks."

Jerman was expected to be released from the hospital later Wednesday.

"Luckily, Jerry is OK," Sporn said. "In the evening, he was talking normally and remembering everything. The coach and the physio visited him in the hospital."

Jerman wasn't even ruled out for Saturday's race, though Sporn didn't expect his teammate to start.

"It will be hard. Even if you are physically ready, after that crash, you can't be mentally ready. That's impossible," Sporn said. "I once crashed here in training and then lost a whole second in the race."

After the final downhill training on Thursday, the races start with a super-G on Friday, followed by the downhill and a slalom the next two days.

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