Kilde captures World Cup downhill for 2nd straight win

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Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde competes during a men’s World Cup downhill ski race Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Beaver Creek, Colo. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — If there was any thought a knee injury might hold back Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, that’s been erased.

His speed has quickly returned.

The Norwegian standout captured a World Cup downhill race with an aggressive run Saturday for his second win in as many days.

It’s more proof the 2019-20 overall World Cup champion is returning to top form after tearing his ACL less than a year ago — and with the Winter Olympics in Beijing just two months away.

“I wanted to come back as fast as possible and I guess this is the result and I can’t be more happy,” Kilde said.

Starting 19th overall, Kilde finished the demanding Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 39.63 seconds to edge Austrian racer Matthias Mayer by 0.66 seconds. Beat Feuz of Switzerland was third, while Italian racer Matteo Marsaglia turned in a surprise run from bib No. 28 to take fourth.

Kilde won the super-G Friday in just his third race back from a training crash last January in which he hurt his right knee. He said he received congratulations from his girlfriend and U.S. skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin, who’s competing in Lake Louise, Alberta, this weekend.

“She’s awesome,” Kilde said. “We’re good for each other.”

The 29-year-old Kilde dedicated the race Saturday to his good friend and teammate Kjetil Jansrud, the five-time Olympic medalist who crashed into the fencing during the super-G race Friday. Jansrud will return home to be evaluated after damage was detected to the cruciate ligament in his knee.

“Crossing my fingers for him to come back,” Kilde said. “Not ready to kind of ‘lose him’ already. We should just give him a hand and a big applause for everything he’s done.”

Feuz said he thought winning Friday “set something free” in Kilde, which carried over to Saturday. Kilde will be the favorite Sunday in another downhill.

“If you’re able to ski free, then all of the run comes together and he showed that in perfect fashion today,” Feuz added through a translator.

The top American finisher was Ryan Cochran-Siegle with a sixth-place finish and 1.24 seconds behind Kilde’s winning time. He plans to glance at video of Kilde’s run.

“He’s just technically so sound,” Cochran-Siegle said. “The only ‘weakness’ that he had was his knee injury and he’s clearly come back from that 100%. He’s skiing at a high level.”

The 36-year-old Marsaglia turned in his best career downhill result with a late charge on a deteriorating course due to the warm temperature and all the racers. This course seems to suit him: Marsaglia’s only World Cup victory came at Beaver Creek in a super-G in 2012.

“Why today? I don’t know. It was like I trusted myself every day,” said Marsaglia, who arrived late to Beaver Creek — after the rest of Italy’s team — because he had a son born three weeks ago. “I had a lot of problems these last 10 years, but especially last summer. I almost didn’t train during the summer because of my back. I have a lot of back problems. … When my body lets me ski as I can, I can also be fast.”

Same can be said of Kilde, who put in the grueling rehab work to get back, watched what he ate, got a good night’s sleep and stayed away from alcohol.

“Give yourself a plan but don’t waste anything,” Kilde said. “That’s what I’ve had in mind and it’s been working pretty well.”

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More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics

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