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Alpine skiing: Svindal heads home after poor Games

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal walks through the Rosa Khutor alpine skiing resort during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 17, 2014. REUT
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal walks through the Rosa Khutor alpine skiing resort during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 17, 2014. REUT

By Annika Breidthardt

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal is heading home on Tuesday without competing in his final two races, completing a miserable Olympics where he failed to win a medal despite dominating the World Cup season.

Norway's head coach Havard Tjorhom said Svindal, his country's flagbearer at the opening ceremony, was suffering from allergies and made the decision after Monday's training.

"He hasn't been feeling too good. He has an allergic reaction here in Sochi. A couple of days after he arrived here, we tried to do different things, to take some actions with medications and pollen filters on the window and stuff like that," Tjorhom said.

"But it has not turned out the way we wanted and he doesn't feel like he is 100 percent. So the main thing now is to get him healthy and to do that we need to send him home, to get him ready for the rest of the season."

The 31-year-old was expected to be one of the stand-out performers in Sochi having led the overall World Cup standings for much of the season and now lying second behind Austrian slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher.

But he failed to claim a medal in his three races. He was fourth in the downhill, which he had been favorite to win, equal eighth in super combined and seventh in super-G. He will not compete in the Wednesday's giant slalom or Saturday's slalom, neither of which are his forte.

"The problem emerged a couple of days after we got here," said Tjorhom. "It has not been a huge problem. He's been performing and close to the podium and all that but it's for sure been keeping him back a little bit. He's having a problem getting to the level he wants to be on."

The twice overall world champion is one of a number of favorites who have under-performed in the Olympic Alpine skiing, including American Ted Ligety, who has also failed to win a medal.

SURPRISE APPEARANCES

Lesser-known skiers such as Switzerland's Sandro Viletta and his female team mate Dominique Gisin have been crowned surprise Olympic champions.

Svindal has also been eclipsed in Sochi by his team mate Kjetil Jansrud, who earned bronze in last week's downhill before storming to gold in the super-G.

"I came to these Olympic Games as the favorite for two golds. I did my best, but this time I wasn't good enough," Svindal said on his facebook page on Sunday.

"These Olympic Games where not my championship. But I'm lucky to have awesome team mates that can step up when I fail."

In Vancouver four years ago Svindal won Olympic super-G gold, downhill silver and giant slalom bronze.

Tjorhom said Svindal had not taken the decision lightly.

"For Aksel, he is a racehorse. He loves ski racing and it's very uncommon for him to pass a race and especially in the Olympics. It's a huge goal," he said.

"But the goal was to win medals here and when we did not achieve that we needed to sit down a little bit," adding that Svindal would now rest in Norway and meet up with the team after their return from Sochi for more training.

Svindal has won five gold medals at world championships and is the reigning world downhill champion.

Up to the Games, his form this season had drawn praise across the board, prompting Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway's most-decorated ski racer, to declare: "He has been outstanding - all the rest are just extras."

But Svindal has bounced back from setbacks before and tweeted on Tuesday: "if every day was the same you wouldn't really learn much. Wins and defeats. I put them both in my 'life experience' account."

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt and Alan Balwdin; Editing by Ed Osmond/Mitch Phillip)

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