'A bit sad' - Svindal not impressed by sparse crowd


Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) - Aksel Lund Svindal said a burning desire for gold, rather than a place in history, inspired him to the Olympic downhill title on Thursday -- although he described the sparse crowd as "a bit sad".

Svindal, 35 and coming to the end of a stellar career, clocked 1min 40.25sec down the 3km-long Jeongseon course to hand Norway its first ever Olympic downhill gold. He also became the oldest ever alpine skiing gold medallist.

Team-mate Kjetil Jansrud won silver, with Switzerland's reigning world champion Beat Feuz taking bronze in a thrilling race despite initial criticism from some racers that the course was too tame for an Olympics.

Having notched up a medal of every colour in the 2010 Vancouver Games, Svindal failed to podium in Sochi, but with his downhill gold here matched Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister's record of winning both downhill and super-G titles.

"It's cool to get the gold," said Svindal, a five-time world champion and twice a World Cup overall champion.

"When you cross the finish line and you see that you have a good race and you're in the medals, you don't think too much about the history books.

"It's emotional, it's being at the Olympics and competing for a gold and being able to get it.

"Those feelings are way stronger than any history written. Honestly, I didn't care much about that -- I just wanted to win!"

Svindal, who used all his gliding experience to power down the bottom half of the course, added: "On the World Cup you have multiple chances, here it comes down to this one single day after waiting for a week.

"What can you do? You just get after it."

- 'Little bit strange' -

Turning to the crowd, which numbered just a couple of thousand -- half the capacity of the venue -- Svindal said: "It's a little bit strange to be honest.

"We're having the Olympics and there are that few people in the stands, it's a bit sad.

"The Olympics is for every nation and it should also be a worldwide thing. If you'd had this race in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, it would be packed, 50,000 people, probably the US too.

"But the Olympics are bigger than just alpine skiing. If alpine skiing's not a big deal here, that's too bad for us, but I guess there are other sports that are a big deal and you just have to hope they have a lot of people there."

Svindal also said it was "gutsy" of organisers to postpone the race from Sunday because of strong winds.

"Big jumps, big rolls, it was not easy at all, an exciting race that would not have been the same in wind," added silver medallist Jansrud.

"It's a perfect Norwegian day," said the super-G gold medallist from Sochi.

"I wish of course we had our teammate Aleksander Aamodt Kilde up with us, he skied well at the top section but made a few mistakes, but all in all, amazing day.

"It's remarkable to be a small team and be two guys sitting here on the podium."

Swiss speed king Feuz had come into the competition as one of the hot favourites, but was full of praise for his Norwegian rivals.

"The Norwegian guys were better and I hope that in a few years I can go faster than them," he said.

"I hoped for a medal and this is a great day for me. Bronze is OK, gold is better but it's OK for me."