Norway's Svindal sweeps World Cup ski field

Aksel Lund Svindal moves 95 points ahead of Austria's defending champion Marcel Hirscher in Olympic season win in Italy.

    Norway's Svindal sweeps World Cup ski field
    Svindal clocked one minute, 54.08 seconds to finish 0.39 seconds ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria. [AFP]

    Norwegian skiier Aksel Lund Svindal has extended his lead in the overall World Cup standings with his fourth victory of the Olympic season.

    Svindal mastered the fresh snow conditions on the Stelvio course to win a downhill race in Bormio, Italy, on Sunday to go 195 points ahead of two-time defending champion Marcel Hirscher.

    He clocked one minute, 54.08 seconds to finish 0.39 seconds ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria.

    From the San Pietro jump down it was still fast and bumpy.

     Aksel Lund Svindal, Norwegian skiier

    "On the top it was difficult to be precise because it was soft and and you can't push too hard with the edges," Svindal said.

    "So I just tried to ski the top part really well and then from the San Pietro jump down that's usually where Bormio is decided and that was to my advantage down there."

    Erik Guay of Canada placed third, 0.51 back, for a strong follow-up to his downhill victory in Val Gardena a week ago.

    Svindal trailed Guay at every checkpoint but then gained 0.65 seconds over the last few gates, where Guay made a slight but costly error, lifting up his left ski to regain his balance after cutting off a turn too sharply.

    Guay has become Svindal's top challenger in the speed events.

    "For the first time I know why I'm fast," said Guay, who has had knee surgeries the past two off-seasons.

    "It's not like it was a lucky shot in Val Gardena."

    Fog and low visibility delayed the start of the race for 40 minutes, and overnight snow provided a much softer surface than during the two training sessions on Friday and Saturday. It was also snowing on the top half of the course during the race for early starters.

    Svindal leads the downhill standings and is shaping up as the top favorite for the speed events at the Sochi Olympics, which start in 40 days.

    He won a medal of each color at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    Still, he had never won in Bormio and missed out on victory last season by 0.01 - the smallest margin possible - when Reichelt and Dominik Paris of Italy shared the victory.

    Paris sat out this race as he recovers from a fall in Val Gardena.

    "Maybe it wasn't as tough this year because it wasn't so icy but from the San Pietro jump down it was still fast and bumpy," said Svindal, referring to the course's biggest jump midway down. "This is a cool race to win."

    Erik Guay's bronze medal marked a Candadian record  21st podium appearance  [AFP]

    All-time greats

    It was Svindal's 25th career World Cup win, moving him into sole possession of 11th place on the all-time list.

    One more victory and he'll pull even with Austrian great Franz Klammer for 10th place on the list, which is led by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark with 86 wins.

    Svindal also became the first skier from outside Austria or Switzerland to win 20 World Cup speed races - joining a select group that includes Hermann Maier (39 speed wins), Klammer (25 - all downhill), Stephan Eberharter (24), Peter Mueller (21) and Pirmin Zurbriggen (21).

    Bormio will also host the next men's race on Jan. 6, a Monday night slalom that was moved from Zagreb due to a lack of snow in Croatia.

    A New Year's Day race in Munich was canceled because of a lack of snow.



    Senegal's village of women

    Senegal's village of women

    Women in northeast Senegal are using solar-powered irrigation to farm food and halt the encroaching desert.

    Inside Baltimore's human trafficking industry

    Inside Baltimore's human trafficking industry

    Survivors of sex trafficking and those who investigate it in the city share their stories.

    A tale of two isolations

    A tale of two isolations

    More than 1,000km apart, a filmmaker and the subject of his film contend with the methods and meanings of solitude.