BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - The spotlight at the alpine ski world championships will once again fall on in-form Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, who is unquestionably the man to beat in the men’s blue riband downhill on Saturday.
The 29-year-old has won three times in World Cup downhill this season, most recently in Kitzbuehel last week, and will have extra motivation to shine on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek after his Super-G disappointment on Thursday.
As Olympic champion, Jansrud was the gold medal favorite for Super-G, the opening event on the men’s program at Beaver Creek, but had to settle for fourth place after hitting the first gate and injuring his left shoulder.
However, the Norwegian team said Jansrud’s injury was not serious and the speed specialist is expected to compete in the showcase downhill.
“His shoulder is beaten up a little bit but it’s not too bad,” said compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal, a five-times gold medallist at the worlds who finished sixth in the men’s Super-G on Thursday.
“It’s just part of the game. On the plus side, he’s just going to want revenge in the downhill so I am not too worried about him. He will race on Saturday.”
Jansrud, who has yet to earn a world championships medal, won bronze in the men’s downhill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics where Christof Innerhofer of Italy took silver and Austria’s Matthias Mayer the gold.
Other leading contenders for the coveted downhill title include Mayer, Innerhofer and consistent Italian Dominik Paris.
Mayer, 24, will be aiming for his first podium finish at a world championship while Paris, who won a World Cup Super-G in Kitzbuehel last week, will bid to improve on the silver medal he earned in the men’s downhill at the 2013 worlds in Schladming.
Norwegian veteran Svindal, who claimed downhill gold at the world championships in 2007 and 2013, believes at least eight ski racers are capable of winning Saturday’s event.
“My favourites for the downhill are the guys that were up there in Super-G,” said the 32-year-old, referring to the top-three finishers on Thursday -- Hannes Reichelt of Austria, Canadian Dustin Cook and Frenchman Adrien Theaux.
“And then you add Paris and a couple of other guys. Kjetil for sure. I am not talking about just four guys, I am talking about seven or eight.”
Editing by Gene Cherry