Saslong Classic Club / Gardena - Gröden
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Gardena/Gröden 2012: Hard to Beat and Hard to Predict

which prevented another victory by the Norwegian and instead bringing gold to Steven Nyman who had been unsuccessful for years.
Gardena/Gröden 2012 picked up exactly where the World Cup weeks for all speed specialists left off overseas: Norwegian dominance. Svindal and fellow country-man Jansrud exchanged the lead during the two training runs but in the Super-G Svindal showed that he has no match.

Super G: A class of its own

Svindal captured either gold or silver in each of the five prior races in the Super-G and Downhill disciplines. He found the best line in all sections of the course despite light snow fall while others were met with challenges either on the Camel Humps, the Ciaslat meadow or the Final Schuss. Svindal’s impressive performance is further highlighted by the small time differentials among all racers placed between rank 2 and rank 15. Svindal clocked a final time that was 1.07 seconds ahead of Matteo Marsaglia (ITA) who was less than one second ahead of Benni Raich who placed 20th. 

Heel is back

Bronze went to local hero Werner Heel who is once again back at the top. Heel won the 2008 Super-G on this course but had been lagging his best form for the last 1 1/2 year. He finally showed good results during the first few speed events of the season and also during the two training sessions on the Saslong. Heel placed fifth in the two Super-G races in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek followed by further improvements here in Gardena/Gröden. This bronze was Heel’s first podium in almost three years. The third Italian to place in the top 10 was Christof Innerhofer rounding out the impressive team performance by the Italian.
The two athletes making up the Norwegian team also showed tremendous efforts placing 1st and taking home a 4th place with Kjetil Jansrud. Jansrud was able to capture the lead in the second training run and after winning silver in the Super-G the year before gave away the podium by making a mistake on the Ciaslat Meadow.

Downhill: Change in weather breaks Norway’s streak.

Things looked like they were going the Norwegian way again in the Downhill with Erik Guay (CAN) leading ahead of Jansrud and Svindal. But then visibility took a turn for the better and Rok Perko was right there to make the best of it: he beat Guay by 0.05 seconds with bib 35 probably believing that he made the coup of his life. But then came Steven Nyman and burst his bubble. With bib 39, the 30-year-old edged out another 0.19 seconds ahead of Perko. The podium was set and Jansrud and Svindal had to content themselves with rank four and five.

Nyman’s second Gardena/Gröden victory

Steven Nyman has not won many World Cup races. Two, to be precise and the other one happened over six years ago. In between these two golds is one other podium as well as long injury lay-offs. But Nyman is not the first surprise winner on the Saslong. Quite frankly, surprises in the Downhill are part of the World Cup in Gardena/Gröden just as the Langkofel mountain is part of the panoramic view here: Markus Foser (1993) and Max Rauffer (2004) are just two examples of racers who placed gold after starting with a high bib number. The 50th World Cup Downhill on the Saslong course was a sprint downhill due to heavy snow fall and bad visibility that pushed the start to 2:10 pm and required a start below the 2000 m altitude. The extraordinary dedication and will power by the course team working from the crack of dawn to clear the course was what made this race even possible.

Thomas Ohnewein