NORWEGIAN colossus Aksel Lund Svindal will go down in the annals of alpine skiing as one of the very best after claiming world silver in his farewell downhill race on Saturday.
Coming in just two-hundredths of a second behind teammate and close friend Kjetil Jansrud was the perfect send-off for the 36-year-old Svindal (pictured, AFP).
Svindal has been one of the stars of the ski circuit with 11 titles (overall-2, downhill-2, superG-5, giant slalom-1, combined-1), 36 victories (14 downhill, 17 super-G, 4 giant slalom, 1 combined) and 80 podiums in 17 seasons on the World Cup.
In addition to being a two-time overall World Cup champion (2007, 2009), he is also a five-time world champion in downhill, giant slalom and super combined, and won Olympic golds in the downhill (2018) and super-G (2010).
Standing 1.89m (6’2”) tall, Svindal said he was prepared for the next stage of his life.
“I think I’ll miss it not in a sad way, in a way that is ‘That was awesome’,” he said. “But even good things come to an end and you can think back at all the good memories.”
The ever-modest and affable Svindal, be it speaking in his native Norwegian or fluent English or German, pinpointed respect as the one thing he wanted to take with him from skiing.
“This is an awesome sport, not just the racing part, but the respect between the racers,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things this sport can be really proud of and I’m part of that sport so that’s something I want to try and take with me into other things I do.
“I hope I contributed on that side in the sport as well.”
Norwegian teammate and long-time World Cup ‘Attacking Viking’ confidant Jansrud was full of praise for Svindal.
“There are not many people who get to retire with such an amazing career,” he said.
Svindal made his World Cup debut in 2002 and went on to become the oldest Olympic alpine ski gold medallist when he swept to victory in the 2018 Olympic downhill in Pyeongchang.
Inbetween, many kilometres of downhill skiing were covered by the racer credited as an outstanding role model and driving force behind the Norwegian team’s winning philosophy of keeping it simple.
Svindal retires as one of the most decorated skiers ever, having being crowned world champion five times, twice picking up the crystal globe for best overall skier, as well as winning a medal of each colour at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
He is a complete competitor who has also had to overcome some horrific injuries, none less so than when he crashed in Beaver Creek in 2007. He also sat out the 2015 season and most of 2016 because of injuries.
But Svindal is known for his supreme physical conditioning, and each time he bounced back.