Yannick Ortlieb looks to defend downhill title at Wengen

It is the dream of every skier — to fly across a frozen lake and open the longest, hardest and fastest lift gates in the world. There is a sizable chance that Yannick Ortlieb…

Yannick Ortlieb looks to defend downhill title at Wengen

It is the dream of every skier — to fly across a frozen lake and open the longest, hardest and fastest lift gates in the world.

There is a sizable chance that Yannick Ortlieb will get a chance to do just that in Norway later this month.

Ortlieb is the reigning downhill world champion, having finished ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud last winter.

The Norwegian reached the top of the World Cup standings in four disciplines last season, including a narrow win in Garmisch-Partenkirchen that earned Ortlieb first place in the technical race.

He finished third in the super-G behind leader Ted Ligety in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

But Ortlieb will face many great rivals this season, including Svindal and Jansrud, both of whom made the super-G podium in Garmisch.

“I am in good shape, and the rest, like Ted and Kjetil, I guess we’ll see,” Ortlieb said. “I’m really looking forward to some fresh air in racing.”

Ortlieb’s official debut this season comes at Wengen on Feb. 25, while the super-G race is just 48 hours later.

“It’s a little sad because you get tired of hearing [at Garmisch] about how good you were the previous season and how you should always be better next season,” Ortlieb said. “In downhill, you always want to beat yourself. You’ll always keep improving and that’s what makes the sport fun.”

Ortlieb knows his strongest suits are in big courses and technical downhill runs. But he feels that, with Ligety in the mix, big speed racing and technical races will be the most attractive of the season.

Svindal is also looking to win on snow in Wengen after a fourth-place finish last season.

“If you’re riding the edge the whole way down, you can stay ahead of the ski and keep it down,” Svindal said. “Yannick has some really great technical lines that are definitely skiable on the day.”

Svindal also enjoys the challenge of the testing course at Wengen.

“The technical part is really good,” he said. “You have to be fast on the guy I’m supposed to be racing against. It’s a different feeling than being competing up at Kitzbuehel.”

The 33-year-old Jansrud, 27, has only competed at Wengen once before, having finished sixth in the super-G race in 2008.

“The course is very technical,” Jansrud said. “It’s very, very fast. It’s not a shame that Ted won last year, because there’s only a lot of talent up there. You have to peak in a way and be in a good position to fight for a win.”

Jansrud hopes to be back at his favorite track.

“It’s been a while and maybe there is some danger to perform, but I think I would feel a little bit more confident,” he said. “I think that the course deserves a little bit of respect, and everybody will be out there going for the gold, but I’ll be sure to attack.”

Jansrud has strong potential in downhill, but his results against elite men have been inconsistent in recent years.

“I don’t think it’s just something I need to fix on myself,” he said. “I have great equipment and ski well, but I know that it can’t always stay that way. My career will take a little longer than all the rest. I know that I’m one of the faster men, but not at the top.”

The Dutch Alpine team also has strong candidates in the downhill ranks, though none has had a top-10 result on snow.

“I haven’t been going fast, so that will make the season even harder,” said Jorrit Bergsma, one of the top downhillers in Europe. “I don’t have a strategy yet, so I can’t say what I will be capable of on the hill.”

He also is excited about this season.

“It’s a big challenge for me to be a world champion and try to improve my skiing each year,” Bergsma said. “I will ski more aggressively, and see where it brings me.”

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