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Birds of Prey: Janka wins two in a row

Chris Freud
Vail Daily

BEAVER CREEK – Any athlete in any sport wants to get his or her season off

to a good start, but for Switzerland’s Carlo Janka, this is getting

delightfully ridiculous.

“I don’t know what it is. I’m just skiing in the moment,” Janka said after

winning Saturday’s Birds of Prey World Cup downhill in 1 minute, 43.49

seconds. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t care.”

Nor should he. That’s two wins in as many days at Beaver Creek for the

23-year-old. He won the super combined on Friday. What’s more is that in the

three other races he’s entered this season, Janka has finished third twice

and sixth once.

This is all the more surprising given that Janka was laid out for most of

the summer with a mysterious virus and didn’t do much offseason work.

“I want to have the same virus he had this summer,” Swiss veteran Didier

Cuche joked.

Not only was it Janka’s second win in a row, but he had a teammate on the

podium in second place again. Friday, it was Didier Defago in the super

combi. Saturday, it was the ageless Cuche, 35, who was just 2-hundredths of

a secondbehind Janka.

And if you’re wondering who was the last person to win on consecutive days

at Birds of Prey, that would be Norway’s Aksel Lund-Svindal ‹ he won last

year’s super-G and downhill ‹ who was third Saturday, a mere four-hundredths

off the pace.

Continuing with the trivia strain, Janka, who will be running in today’s

giant slalom, was asked if he could win three in a row here and if he knew

who the only other person to do so at Beaver Creek.

“I’ll try to. It’s difficult,” Janka said. “It’s a new race and a lot of

favorites. We’ll see what I can get. I don’t know who did the triple. Maybe,

Hermann?”

Yep. Maier won GS, downhill and super-G at Birds of Prey in November 1999.

In a good-natured post-race news conference, Janka had a hard time getting

in a word edge-wise with both Cuche and Svindal, but all the talk was about

his skiing.

“I’m sure that he doesn’t need to learn something from me,” Cuche joked. “He

has such an instinct. I told him right after the finish, ŒI would like to go

back 10 years and have the same God’s gift (you have).'”

Janka, who won his fourth World Cup race and first downhill Saturday, said

that he gained confidence from Friday’s super combined.

“I saw yesterday that I could be really fast in the downhill,” he said.

The split times bear that out. After a slow start on the top flats, he

hammered The Brink, the Talon Turn and Pete’s Arena all the way down to the

Pumphouse. Where this section of the course threw racers on a wider and more

time-consuming route, Janka was clean.

He carried his speed from the upper portion of the course to the three key

jumps at the bottom, including Harrier, which dashed the hopes for gold for

Cuche and Svindal.

While it is early in the season, Janka leads the overall chase with 360

points with Cuche in second at 319 and Austria’s Benni Raich at 201. Svindal

(118) is tied for 10th

“I think these two guys are the favorites and then I’m here,” Janka said

while sandwiched between Cuche and Svindal. “Maybe, I try to get it. Maybe,

it’s too early for me. We’ll see at the end of the season.”

Cuche is 35, but he’s skiing these days like he’s 25.

“I don’t really feel like I’m 35, especially with the motivation I have on

the course,” he said. “I work really hard during the summer. I worked really

hard all those 10-plus years to get back where I am now. That’s helped me.”

With 11 World Cup wins, including a GS in Soelden, Austria, and a downhill

up in Lake Louise, Alberta, Cuche likened his career to an airplane, which

needs a lot of energy to take off, but once in the air, is on cruise

control.

Whatever analogy, Cuche has had yet another good weekend at Birds of Prey,

including a 21st-place finish in Friday’s super combined.

Svindal entered the weekend with some questions about his health,

particularly a leg injury sustained in training in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

After a DNF in the Soelden GS, some time off and so-so results up in Lake

Louise, it’s clear he’s back.

“Today, (my leg) didn’t bother me at all,” Svindal said. “For me, the worst

is that I lost the five best weeks of training. I feel more the nerves of

hitting this downhill course than I do the pain in my leg.”

Taking sixth in the super combined Friday and third in Saturday’s downhill

will definitely put a bounce in the step of the defending overall champion,

who probably wouldn’t mind making it three globes in four years.

“Right now, it’s looks like a Swiss battle. Hopefully, we can lend some more

color into it, some blue, white and red,” Svindal said. “For me, I started

off not skiing at all. Then I started at Lake Louise. I was trying to get in

shape for Beaver Creek. It seems to work out pretty good. Now I’m just going

to try to build on that and be 4-hundredths faster.”


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