Lake Louise (AB), Canada – After a solid three days of training, Squaw Valley’s Travis Ganong threw down a fast run on Saturday to grab third place at the Lake Louise downhill behind winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
The downhill track at Lake Louise was yet again the creator of a comeback fairytale as Svindal claimed victory by the narrowest possible margin, just 0.01 seconds, in his first World Cup speed race since an Achilles injury kept him off tour for all but two races last season. He edged out Italian Peter Fill, who held the lead from his bib 4 start all the way until Svindal came down 16 skiers later.
“I was definitively pushing it harder than in the training runs so it wasn’t that clean but that’s what happens when you are racing, you have to see where the limits are,” Svindal said. “I made a couple of mistakes that I thought would cost me more, luckily I was carrying good speed too and then I was a little bit surprised when I crossed the finish line, but it doesn’t matter as long as it is green.”
In the final spot on stage, Ganong rounded out the podium at an unlikely venue for the 27-year-old. He was the first U.S. Ski Team athlete on course, and his time held up for third place despite numerous attacks from the top seven skiers.
“I’ve really struggled here at Lake Louise in the past. I really didn’t do well here when I was at the NorAm level, kind of figuring it out. This year the snow is just so perfect that I was able to push hard and ski like I want to ski and be competitive. So I’m really happy with how it worked out,” said Ganong, whose best finish at Lake Louise prior to Saturday was a 10th place. “On a day like today it’s the best day to be a racer – it’s perfect conditions, perfect weather, sunny. It’s a good start to the winter.”
Pre-race favorite Kjetil Jansrud was going for broke on the hill, and his aggressive movements and direct line cost him the tenths that Svindal managed to hold. Jansrud ultimately finished ninth, 0.77 seconds off his teammate, after a rough and ragged run.
“On race day people get really over-amped sometimes. You saw that today, like Jansrud had some mistakes and some of the other favorites had mistakes because they were pushing really hard,” remarked Ganong. “For me it’s all about staying relaxed and skiing within myself and having fun and trusting in my ability.”
Ganong holds onto the American Downhillers’ denim vest this week after Steven Nyman of Utah finished tied for 16th with Patrick Kueng.
“I was pretty bummed,” said a disappointed Nyman. “I skied really well on some sections, but I had a pretty good mistake coming off of the fallaway. I lost connection with that ground and was pretty low. That’s pretty key to carrying speed down here. I had some really fast skis on today. I was obviously going for it and it’s a hill you can’t make mistakes like that on.”
Andrew Weibrecht, of Lake Placid, N.Y., who had to take a rerun after being flagged off course, finished tied for 24th with Bostjan Kline. Vermont native Drew Duffy made his World Cup debut but lost his outside ski on the bumpy terrain. He slid toward the fences but was able to get up and ski down without injury. For other Americans, Bryce Bennett finished 38th, Marco Sullivan was 41st and Wiley Maple was 49th.
“Hopefully next week my teammates are knocking at the door with me. I’d be proud to hand (the vest) off to the next guy or hold onto it for another week,” said Ganong.
The host nation cracked the top-10, as Canadian Erik Guay –who is back from a 20-month injury hiatus — finished in 10th place despite finishing as high as third in training on Wednesday. Fellow Canadian Benjamin Thomsen, who was first out of the gate on Saturday, finished 21st, while teammate Manny Osborne-Paradis finished the day barely in the points in 30th place.
The men will race a super G at Lake Louise on Sunday morning with the start set for 11 a.m. local time. NBC Sports Live Extra will live stream the race starting at 1 p.m. ET.
FIS Alpine Ski World Cup
Lake Louise (AB), Canada – Nov. 28, 2015
|1||NOR||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1:47.29|