KITZBUEHEL, AUSTRIA – Aksel Lund Svindal had all eyes on him once more after a World Cup downhill on Saturday, but this time not for the reason he wanted.
Having won all but one of the five previous downhills this season, the overall World Cup leader picked up a season-ending knee injury in a dramatic race on the Streif course.
Svindal and Austrian pair Georg Streitberger and Hannes Reichelt were all thrown off the course after catching a bump they could hardly see because of flat light on the Hausbergkante.
Svindal ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and damaged a meniscus in his right knee, and underwent surgery in a clinic in Innsbruck later Saturday. He was expected to need up to nine months for recovery.
“I messed up my knee a little and about to go into surgery,” Svindal wrote on his Facebook page. “Kinda sucks in the middle of the winter, but thats life. Ups and downs and just gotta deal with whatever comes.”
Streitberger sustained similar damage to his right knee and also needed surgery, while Reichelt escaped with a bruised bone in his left knee.
The crashes sparked a debate about the conditions of the race, which was first delayed by an hour because of snowfall and high wind, and then called off after just 30 starters as the cloudy weather limited visibility. Peter Fill of Italy was leading and declared the winner.
FIS race director Markus Waldner called the crashes “unfortunate.”
“There was no visibility problem when we started the race,” Waldner said. “The snowfall had stopped and the wind had calmed down.”
However, Waldner acknowledged that “the visibility was quite flat later on.”
“We have some rolls in here,” he said. “It was really difficult for the racers to see these rolls and probably this caused the mistakes. We know from this section, no mistake is allowed. It’s the toughest section. The slope was good there.”