VAL GARDENA, Italy - Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal extended his recent dominance in speed races with a super-G victory on Friday, winning by a large margin despite a major mistake three gates from the finish.
The Norwegian clocked 1 minute, 36.95 seconds down the Saslong course under a light snowfall that made for flat light.
Italians Matteo Marsaglia and Werner Heel finished second and third to the delight of the local fans in the Dolomite Range.
Marsaglia was a distant 1.07 seconds behind and Heel was 1.12 back.
It was Svindal's third win in five speed races this season. He finished second in the other two.
"It was a good race. I don't know what else to say. Some days are faster than other days and today was fast," Svindal said. "So far this season is just going great. I had hoped to be good, but I didn't expect to be this good."
Jan Hudec of Calgary was the top Canadian in 12th place. Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 14th and Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver was 18th.
Svindal would have won by an even larger margin had he not nearly gone down with his legs in a split within sight of the finish line. But he recovered by the next-to-last gate and lost only 0.08 of his advantage from the final split time.
"I heard on the radio that everyone was losing time to the Italian guys at the last split," Svindal said. "I definitely didn't want to give anything away at the bottom, so I was charging and I came tight in there ... and then I hit a bump.
"It's just reflexes, really you don't have time to think about it. Definitely not what I planned to do. I had a high heart rate before that but that definitely raised it. I was pretty close to losing my balance."
It was the 19th win of Svindal's World Cup career, moving him past Lasse Kjus into second place among Norwegian skiers, trailing only Kjetil Andre Aamodt's 21 victories.
Svindal also won this super-G in 2009.
The last man to reach the podium in the first three super-Gs of the season was Austrian great Hermann Maier in 2003-04. Maier ended up reaching the podium in all seven super-Gs that season.
"Hermainn Maier has (54) World Cup victories. I have 19, so I have a long way to be close to Hermann Maier," Svindal said. "I'm just happy that I'm fast this year. I'm not thinking too much about what other guys have done. I'm more concerned with the guys I'm racing against now."
One of those guys is Marsaglia, who won the previous super-G in Beaver Creek, Colorado, for his first career victory.
"This second place is maybe better than the first place in Beaver Creek," Marsaglia said. "(Alberto) Tomba told me that winning once is easy but it's difficult to win a second time. Well this is nearly a win, so confirming myself feels really good."
Heel won this race four years ago but hadn't been on the podium in any event in three seasons.
"It's extra special to be back on the podium in Val Gardena," Heel said.
Heel dedicated the podium finish to his girlfriend Manuela Moelgg, who also races for Italy.
Svindal's Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud finished fourth, missing the podium by just 0.06 seconds. Jansrud and Svindal were 1-2 in downhill training on Thursday and will be the favourites for Saturday's downhill on the Saslong.
Norwegian coach Tron Moger set the course.
Svindal moved 132 points ahead of American rival Ted Ligety in the overall standings, as Ligety finished 25th.
"This is not really a hill that suits me at all," Ligety said. "There's a lot of terrain and it's more about absorbing the terrain than turning, so that's not really my specialty."
Svindal could widen his margin again in the downhill, since Ligety isn't racing, while the American will be favoured in Sunday's giant slalom in nearby Alta Badia.
Svindal also holds a 71-point lead on Marsaglia on top of the super-G standings.
Patrick Kueng of Switzerland provided some comic relief when he lost control immediately after pushing out of the start gate and performing a 360-degree spin. He then skied off course on the lower section.
Heavier snowfall is expected overnight, which could affect Saturday's race. Organizers have already raised the possibility of using two shortened runs for the downhill.