The former Norwegian World Cup alpine ski racer Aksel Lund Svindal (born 1982) was already a legend when he said goodbye to ski racing last year. We’re looking back at his stellar career by making this portrait of the retired Norwegian ski racer.
Aksel Lund Svindal crossed the finish line for the last time in the 2019 World Championship downhill in Åre, Sweden. A sea of Norwegian flags waved to say goodbye to their beloved superstar. That day, Svindal finished with a silver medal, slim 0.02 seconds behind his teammate and close friend, Kjetil Jansrud.
World Cup and Winter Olympic champion
Svindal is a two-time overall World Cup champion (2007 and 2009), an Olympic gold medalist in super-G at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in downhill at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. He is also a five-time World Champion in downhill, giant slalom, and super combined. With his victory in 2013, Svindal became the first male alpine racer to win titles in four consecutive world championships.
After several injuries and as many successful comebacks, the ‘Norwegian Viking’ admitted that he had pushed the limit further than his knees were able to tolerate. Nevertheless, he leaves a glittering legacy as one of the most successful alpine skiers in history.
His final race
His final race in Åre, Sweden was in many ways a near-perfect embodiment of his career and after he had crossed the finish line, Svindal looked up and thought to himself, “Let’s just enjoy this, this is the last moment.”
Many consider him the best Norwegian skier ever. Although Kjetil Andre Aamodt has been more successful at the Olympics, Svindal is by far the most successful on the World Cup arena. His magnificent achievements could only have been executed by a man with raging and unyielding intensity, commitment and passion for racing.
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During the first training run for the Birds of Prey Downhill race in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 2007, Svindal crashed badly after landing a jump. With broken bones in his face and six-inch (15cm) laceration to his groin and abdominal area he was taken to the hospital and missed the remainder of the 2008 season. He returned to World Cup racing in October 2008.
Others would probably go out of their minds with boredom during the long, dark hours of rehabilitation, but Svindal turned his agile mind to improving himself. Svindal dated alpine racer Julia Mancuso of the U.S. for three years, until the couple split up in September 2013.
After an Achilles tendon injury in 2014, Svindal did not compete in World Cup events during the 2015 season.
A horrific crash in the 2016 edition of the Hahnenkamm downhill left him sidelined with a shredded meniscus and ACL. The recovery from the injury was slow and even required a second surgery midway through the following season, ending his hopes of competing at the 2017 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Portrait Of A Retired Norwegian Ski Racer
In spite of his injuries, Aksel is a real gentleman, a genuinely kind human being, and someone who always instinctively understood the responsibilities that came with being a serial alpine champion, the oldest in Olympic history. Svindal has endeared himself to teammates, rivals and fans alike by the simple fact that he is a genuinely nice guy. He’s won World Cup races in 12 different seasons. Only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark has done better (13). In his spare time, he devotes himself to freeskiing and has already appeared in several freeskiing film documentaries.
An era is over
In an Instagram post, Svindal wrote, “Hi Champ. An era is over, and the time has come. Thank you for everything you have given me, us, and the team. A champion on and off the slopes, and rest assured we will manage the Attacking Vikings to the best of our abilities. A giant has left, but the legacy lives on.”
Portrait Of A Retired Norwegian Ski Racer, written by Tor Kjolberg