Full speed ahead: Jansrud forges on with good buddy retired

PAT GRAHAM
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WCUP Skiing Downhill

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis down the course during a Men's World Cup downhill skiing training run Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Beaver Creek, Colo. (AP Photo/John Locher)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — For so long, it was ski racers Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal collaborating on how to go faster.

The Norwegian dynamic duo broke down every detail as they constantly pushed each other to greater heights. Jansrud even wrote that meticulous data into a notebook he keeps.

His buddy, Svindal, is now retired. His book of notes is a little antiquated after making equipment tweaks.

Jansrud's searching for that fast track to success again.

It's an arduous process and one that might not pay off until down the road. The 34-year-old with 22 career World Cup wins misses the camaraderie with Svindal — the split-time comparisons, the talks on the lift — but this is the new reality.

Same with altering his setup. Hi s skis, bindings and boots all had to be adjusted to get faster against this new wave of World Cup racers, many of whom studied the likes of Svindal and Jansrud in order to get faster.

Granted, tinkering to find more speed has been enjoyable for Jansrud, but it's hard work. He has the help of teammates like 27-year-old Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who's very fast, very knowledgeable and every bit a resource.

Still, they could always use the wisdom of Svindal, who turns 37 later this month.

"Svindal was the perfect bench mark for saying, 'If I try anything and I'm faster than Aksel, I will with 95% certainty know I'm going to be skiing fast.' He's just a super-fast skier," said Jansrud, who will be a favorite in the super-G race Friday at Beaver Creek. A training run scheduled for Thursday was canceled due to snow. “The best compass you have is a guy who's been winning a lot of races and who you can talk to every day.”

Svindal stepped away after a career that included 36 World Cup wins and four Olympic medals, including a downhill gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games when Jansrud took silver.

This demonstrates the dominance of the Norwegian contingent in the super-G: They captured seven straight season titles in the discipline (Svindal and Jansrud three each, Kilde one). It was a streak interrupted last season by Dominik Paris of Italy.

Over the years, the Norwegians racers have lost a little bit of their advantage simply because other teams are emulating them. The rival nations study their performances, analyze their splits, even use the same sort of fabric for the speed suits.

That's why to get faster Jansrud needed to reassess. He took a critical look after a 2018-19 season in which he won just one World Cup race, but did ski away with the downhill world championship title in Sweden. It was his fewest World Cup wins since '12-13.

So he altered his gear — a big deal for a racer. Especially for Jansrud, who keeps detailed practice/racing notes.

"I had to find the harmony between skis, boots and technique," said Jansrud, a five-time Olympic medalist including super-G gold at the 2014 Sochi Games. “It has to be in harmony.”

He spent run after run this prep period dialing in everything. In the downhill and super-G races last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, he finished eighth both times.

“There's a lot of talented skiers," Jansrud said. "It's about time for me also to start looking at others. If not, I'm going to lose my edge.”

Maybe study Paris. Or perhaps Matthias Mayer of Austria. They could be in the mix for an overall title this season after the retirement of Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher, who won eight straight.

And don't count out Jansrud.

“Even when Marcel was there, I was still thinking a couple more giant slaloms and I think I can pull it off,” Jansrud cracked.

Early on, he and Svindal — and later Kilde — would always go back to the snow lab to fix anything that needed adjusting.

It was simply the nature of the friendship.

To this day, Jansrud communicates with Svindal quite often. Not about racing, just about life.

"I think he misses it," Jansrud said. “Lake Louise is his hill, Beaver Creek as well. This is the part of the year where he would feel the draw back to the sport a bit more than the other times. He's very content on being retired.”

It's been difficult not having Svindal around.

"You miss Aksel at breakfast, and lunches, and dinners, and riding the lift and talking," Jansrud said. "All these things we sat and talked about, which isn't there anymore. It's also good for me in a way, because what Aksel brought to the team, this team needs to find its own way. I'm here for a few more years. (Aleksander) and all the young guys need to make this their team.

“Aksel and I, we've been kind of running the team for so many years, with the same ideas, same thoughts, same this and that. I have to make sure I bring room for them to have the team as they want to have it.”

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