Askel Lund Svindal Wins 2008 Audi Birds of Prey Dowhnill
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal had a heroic finish, winning the Audi Birds of Prey downhill one year after he had an incredible crash during a training run at Beaver Creek. Steven Nyman (Provo, UT) took the lead for U.S. racers Friday as he finished seventh in the downhill after Bode Miller crashed hard coming into the Screech Owl jump. The men's downhill will air on NBC, the Olympic network, Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. "It's special. This whole week has been special. I knew it was going to be mentally challenging to get back here and be able to get after it because it's for sure in the back of my head what happened here," Svindal said. "I've put energy into not thinking about the wrong things and thinking about the right things like how to ski. I don't think about not crashing because that's going to get you nowhere." Svindal was joined on the podium by Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein, who was second, and third-place finisher Erik Guay of Canada. Nyman, who in addition to placing third in 2006 was second in 2008 at Beaver Creek, said despite his history of success at the Birds of Prey he is happy with his results today. "You've got to charge to win and I was going for it and I had a little mistake and got dragged pretty wide. It didn't allow me to carry my speed where I wanted to, but I carried my speed everywhere else," Nyman said. "I'm seventh, which is a good rebound from Lake Louise, so I'm stoked." Nyman also gave Beaver Creek credit for pulling off what he feels is a great event that took over 300 volunteers and large amounts of machinery to make it happen after 18 inches of snowfall that forced the cancellation of the super combined Thursday. "It's incredible what these guys do here. I'm really proud for the way Beaver Creek handled this whole deal," Nyman said. "Every year it seems to just dump here and they prep this hill tremendously. It's awesome and I'm really excited with the way it always comes out." TJ Lanning (Park City, UT), who had a career best ninth-place finish one week prior in a downhill at Lake Louise, followed Nyman for the U.S. in 13th. "I was a little bummed out that the run got canceled yesterday because I was going to use the downhill portion to practice since I crashed in the training run," Lanning said. "It was a pretty good run. There were a few places that I didn't ski the other day where I lost some speed, but overall I went out and skied and it went pretty good." Crashes Hinder U.S. Results The Birds of Prey downhill was riddled with DNFs for the U.S., the most notable of which was Miller, who clipped a gate just before Screech Owl and flew across the course smacking head on into fencing. Fortunately, Miller was able to get up on his own. Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) also lost control on course, but only skied out. "I made a really nice turn coming out of the pitch and was carrying good heat, I just got too early on my left foot and got pinched off by the gate, which sent me low," Sullivan explained. "Headed into the next turn, I put pressure right on top of a little roll and it just high-sided me and I shot out toward the fence." Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) who had an incredible 10th place finish in the 2008 Birds of Prey downhill race, also crashed on course, but said he would be back for the super G on Saturday. "I was going all out and I just hit a rut wrong and got shot over a roller and that was it. All I remember is seeing the fence upside down," Weibrecht said. "I'm doing OK, though. Everything is working right and I'm going to try to get my courage up and get back on it for tomorrow." Mac Makes Strides Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, WA) made significant strides toward his desire to be back on the World Cup podium, finishing 21st one week after his first race back from injury where he finished 59th in a downhill in Lake Louise "I was pretty happy with how I skied. I needed to get a little more aggressive on the top," Macartney said. "It's coming along and it was another step up from how I was in training and overall I was pretty happy. It's another good step for me." The Perfect Day A massive crowd at the Birds of Prey downhill was on hand to celebrate a successful race day after the cancellation of the super combined due to poor weather conditions. International racers were busy handing out compliments to the Vail Valley for a great show. Buechel praised course workers for all they did to prepare an excellent race course, while Svindal heaped his praise on the treatment he had a year at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Before the competition began, the audience took a moment to celebrate a noticeably absent presence - the late Paul Robbins. The mountain arena was filled with the ringing of bells and cheering for Robbins, a journalist and historian for the U.S. Ski Team for over 30 years. The Birds of Prey excitement continues Saturday with a super G and wraps up Sunday with a giant slalom. Fans can watch live coverage on UniversalSports.com.