Back from knee injury, Kilde wins super-G; Ganong takes 3rd

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — A big day for Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — winning a World Cup super-G race less than a year after tearing a knee ligament — suddenly turned bittersweet: The Norwegian ski racer watched his good friend and teammate, Kjetil Jansrud, slide into the protective fencing after falling.

Jansrud, a five-time Olympic medalist, injured a ligament in his knee Friday but was able to get up and ski the rest of the way down the hill. He even made it over to congratulate Kilde before limping away.

“Sitting in the leader chair doesn’t really mean anything when your buddy’s crashing into the net and you see him get injured,” Kilde said. “Hopefully, he’s doing OK, but we’ll see.”

Kilde, the 2019-20 overall World Cup champion, finished a tricky and technical Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 10.26 seconds to edge Swiss racer Marco Odermatt — the super-G winner the day before — by a scant 0.03 seconds. American Travis Ganong wound up third — he was second on the slope and his time held up for his first World Cup super-G podium.

A day after not finishing a super-G, Kilde made one slight adjustment: Toning down his aggressiveness.

“Today, it worked really well and I’m happy with my performance," said Kilde, who is dating U.S. skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin.

This was Kilde's third race back since tearing his ACL during a training crash last January. He said this victory validates that he’s on the right path with the Winter Olympics in Beijing two months away.

The 29-year-old Kilde joins Bjarne Solbakken (2003) and Aksel Lund Svindal (2008) as the only Norwegian racers to capture a World Cup super-G in Beaver Creek.

“Amazing feeling,” Kilde said. “Just incredible.”

Following the race, Kilde's thoughts were with Jansrud, who spun out while setting up for a hard turn. He slid, hit his shoulder on the snow and bounced into the fence.

Kilde shielded his eyes as medical personnel attended to Jansrud, who was eventually able to stand and click back into his boots.

The Norwegian team said in a statement released Saturday morning — in Norwegian and translated — there was damage to the cruciate ligament and Jansrud would return home with the team Monday to be reevaluated. The team said it was too early to say anything about surgery. There was no timetable for a return.

Ganong became the first American to earn a spot on a super-G podium at Beaver Creek since 2015, when Ted Ligety was second and Andrew Weibrecht third. Ligety was part of the broadcast team for Friday's race.

The 33-year-old Ganong said starting early helped him even if he didn't have a course report.

“I actually love going early because I can kind of turn my brain off,” Ganong said. “That’s more when I have these special runs, is when I’m like more relaxed and just performing.”

This helped, too: Last spring at a training camp, he revamped his technique, being more patient coming out of turns and keeping his shoulders down and feet in good position.

Steadily, the new form is taking root. Ganong was 26th in a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, to start the season, 22nd in a super-G on Thursday and now on the podium.

“My whole career, I’ve been top-10, like, all the time, but not that many podiums," Ganong said. "So I was like, ‘OK, let me try something new. Maybe it’ll make a difference.’ Today it paid off.”

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