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Svindal wins as Canada-Norway ski 'team' thrives

VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — The unique Alpine skiing partnership between Norway and Canada paid big dividends Friday. And it was also a solid day for the U.S. Ski Team, with Bode Miller posting his best speed result of the season and Travis Ganong recording his best career finish in super-G.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal increased his overall World Cup lead by winning the Val Gardena super-G for the third time and Canada's Jan Hudec finished second for his first podium finish since February 2012.

Norway and Canada train together and share course reports during races in an arrangement that helps two of the sport's smaller teams compete with powerhouses like Austria, Switzerland and the United States.

The skiers have labeled their two-nation team "Can-Norge," using the Norwegian name for Norway. "It's almost like we have a single team in two nations," Hudec said. "We totally have to feed off each other's momentum and energy, and it seems to be working."

Svindal clocked 1 minute, 35.82 seconds in a flawless run on the Saslong course to match his wins here in 2009 and last year. Hudec finished 0.58 seconds behind and Adrian Theaux of France was third, 0.91 back.

Two more members of "Can-Norge" also made the top 10, with Kjetil Jansrud of Norway fourth and Erik Guay of Canada sixth. Svindal has been nearly unbeatable in super-G for the past two seasons and this race was no different, as the Olympic champion skied flawlessly on a day when many of his rivals veered off course or crashed in difficult conditions.

Seven of the top 30 starters did not finish and two others were disqualified for missing the final gate. Svindal has won six of the last eight super-Gs going back to last season. "That's the goal, to be fast everywhere, but there's no guarantee so I just try to prepare well and then every course attack it and have a good plan," Svindal said. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work and it's been working out very good for the last couple of years, and I'm thankful for that."

Svindal was careful in areas where other racers lost control. "With all the terrain you have to very precise," he said. "You can't really (put) pressure in a lot of places. You have to (absorb) the terrain. I had a good plan and was able to execute it well."

Svindal also benefited from hearing Hudec's course report before he started — and Hudec said he had no reservations about helping the man who then beat him. "Not at all," Hudec said. "He doesn't hold back when he gives course reports and it has to be the same way for us.

"I mean there's no way the Austrians would be giving course reports to the Swiss," Hudec added. "But the Norwegians and the Canadians are such like-minded mentalities that we get along well together."

With wins worth 100 points each, Svindal moved 125 points ahead of Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher, who did not race, in the overall standings. Ted Ligety of the United States remained third, 191 points back, after skiing off course on the top section.

Ligety went wide and attempted to make the next gate but pulled up when he realized it was too risky. "This isn't an ideal hill for me," said Ligety, who is more of a technical specialist. "I could have hooked it sideways to stay on the course but I would have been seven seconds out."

Miller finished eighth despite trouble landing the final jump, which forced the American to collide with the last gate, catching his pole and losing precious time. "I got straight and came in there late and then made a good recovery to make the gate," Miller said. "This course is just so easy, everyone is just pushing too hard. You're seeing guys going too straight and blowing out of the course because they're looking for speed where there isn't any. That was a bit what I did, I just got away with it."

Ganong, who is from Squaw Valley, California, jumped from the 41st start position to finish 16th. And he's looking for more in Saturday's downhill after placing fifth in Thursday's final training session despite a big mistake.

"If I execute my plan and ski how I know I can, I can for sure be on the podium," Ganong said. Besides Miller and Ganong, another American threat for the downhill is defending champion Steven Nyman, who also won in 2006.

"Can-Norge" also has big expectations for Saturday, with Guay, Svindal and Manuel Osborne-Paradis placing 1-2-3 in the final downhill training session. "We know we can do something special tomorrow," Hudec said.

Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/asdampf

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