Norwegian skier blasts bureaucrats

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — With a silver medal as his vindication, Aksel Svindal couldn’t resist a parting shot at the bureaucrats of Canadian sport.

After a surprise runner-up finish in Monday’s men’s downhill over the Dave Murray course, Svindal had some pointed words for organizers who kept him off the mountain last spring.

In the leadup to these Olympics, the Norwegian had been sharp in his criticism of the Canadians for an incident that occurred when he made a special trip to Whistler to get an advance look at the course he soared down on Monday.

Svindal had arranged to train with the Canadian men’s team, only to learn upon his arrival that a higher authority was throwing his weight around.

“I just want to make something clear,” Svindal said at the end of his medallists press conference. “It was VANOC (the Vancouver organizing committee) or Own the Podium or something.

“It wasn’t the Canadian ski team.”

Svindal made the trip on his own because he was injured earlier in the World Cup season and thus unable to compete in the Whistler stop on the circuit. The plan seemed reasonable enough to the Canadian men’s team, which welcomed him.

But when the Own The Podium folks got wind of it, the roadblocks went up.

“I was supposed to train with the Canadian guys,” Svindal said prior to the Games. “But then some, like, big dude from VANOC told the coaches that they do a lot of funding for the training and that I wasn’t allowed to be on the slope.

“I thought it was ridiculous but, whatever.”

The incident has embarrassing overtones considering Norway has a memorable history of helping Canadians. It was the Norwegian coach, remember, who helped Canadian cross country skier Sara Renner to a silver medal at the 2006 Games by replacing her broken ski pole.

Svindal got his silver in Canada, but with no help from the host nation.

“The Canadian team and Alpine Canada are great to work with,” Svindal said. “(Canadian skier) Erik Guay gave me a great report on the hill while I was here. I want to thank the Canadian ski team. It wasn’t them who kept me off the hill.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

POLL