ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Special qualities are required to join the elite ranks of the so-called ‘Attacking Vikings’ and Kjetil Jansrud revealed them in abundance to plunder more gold for Norway in a gripping men’s Olympic super-G race on Sunday.
Just as Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus, the original members, and Aksel Lund Svindal had done before him, the bearded 28-year-old raider from Stavanger risked all as he hurtled down a treacherous mountainside to claim Olympic glory.
Norway have now won five of the eight gold medals awarded in Olympic super-G, an often unpredictable event producing the speeds of downhill but with white-knuckle turns thrown in just to make things a little more interesting.
Jansrud got the taste for Rosa Khutor’s terrain in last week’s downhill when he earned a bronze and proved unbeatable on Sunday as a Norwegian man won the super-G at a fourth consecutive Games, following Aamodt (2002, 2006) and more illustrious team mate Svindal four years ago.
No wonder Norway’s watching Prime Minister Erna Solberg was smiling so broadly in the finish area.
“He’s a new idol now,” she told reporters.
“It would have been great to have two on the podium but I think we should be grateful that we have one and it’s a gold medal. Kjetil has done a great job at the Olympic Games.”
Svindal was the man expected to lead the Norwegian assault in Sochi after winning three medals in Vancouver but has had his thunder stolen by Jansrud.
Veteran Bode Miller was looking a likely winner down at the bottom when Jansrud, wearing bib No. 21., attacked, piling on the speed in the lower section of the course to slice half a second off the American’s time.
“I didn’t have the best start but from 30 seconds down to the finish I just risked it,” Jansrud told reporters.
“Super-G is a really difficult race. You just get a one-hour inspection and then have to roll at it. It’s tough but I can’t say it’s too tough today as I nailed it pretty good.”
Jansrud, who underwent knee surgery last season, suffered a fright when late-starting American Andrew Weibrecht looked poised to snatch gold but finished 0.30 seconds slower despite being quickest on all the split times.
“It got a little too exciting there for a while when Andrew was coming down,” Jansrud said. “My legs were jelly but I knew I had been really quick towards the end of the run.”
“This is like a fairytale but I have a team that works very hard, very professional coaches working 24 hours, a great technician. It’s not a coincidence.”
While Kjus, Jansrud’s idol, paved the way for Norway to become a force in Alpine skiing and the Nordic disciplines it dominates with an Olympic gold in Lillehammer in 1994, the country’s latest speed merchant said Svindal drove him on.
“He’s such a great athlete and he’s been dominating for the last two years,” he said.
”He’s the one I fight with in training. First I‘m faster, then he’s faster and we always try to push each other.
“Somehow when we come to the Olympics we end up on the (super-G) podium and that’s impossible to describe.”
Jansrud may not be finished yet either and is already looking at next week’s giant slalom.
“I can let my shoulders go a bit then,” he said.
Norway’s head coach Havard Tjorhom said a healthy rivalry was key, as well as a determination to continue the traditions started by Kjus and Aamodt.
“We don’t have any secrets,” he said.
“Both Kjus and Aamodt have been a huge inspiration for both of our guys and I think both Axel and Kjetil have been pushing each other further as well.”
Editing by Ed Osmond/Peter Rutherford