GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — Even with Aksel Lund Svindal out for the season, Norwegian men are finding ways to win on the World Cup circuit.
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde posted his first career victory when he came down as a late starter to clinch Saturday's downhill, despite trailing in the upper half of the Kandahar course.
Bostjan Kline of Slovenia appeared headed for his first triumph until Kilde, wearing bib No. 30, blazed down at the bottom half to win by .22 seconds.
Kilde's win gave Norway its fifth downhill victory this season. The first four were by Svindal, but the downhill World Cup leader sustained a season-ending knee injury in a crash last week in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Norwegian men have won 16 races in all disciplines this season. The last season a country had at least 16 race wins was in 2005-06 — when Austrian men had 18.
"It's unbelievable for team Norway," Kilde said.
Kilde's previous career best was third place in a Super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, in December. Kline's previous top finish was 13th in Santa Caterina, Italy, in December of 2014.
Starting with the No. 3 bib, Kline had a long wait as leader before Kilde completed his winning run, making up time at the bottom of the course. Beat Feuz of Switzerland was third and Christof Innerhofer of Italy finished fourth.
Svindal remains ahead in downhill standings — 121 points clear of Peter Fill of Italy, the Kitzbuehel winner who finished 11th on Saturday. Marcel Hirscher of Austria will be looking to increase his overall lead in Sunday's giant slalom.
Kilde covered the 3,300-meter Kandahar course in 1 minute, 55.28 seconds.
"It was dark, fast and bumpy and fun to ski," said Kilde, who played soccer into his teenage years.
Although it was a mild and sunny day, the course is in the shadows and Kilde said his late starting number was not a handicap.
"When I got my number yesterday (at the draw), I thought it would be difficult to get into the top 10," the Norwegian said.
"I thought it was pretty even for everyone. They did a good job in this weather and it was holding up pretty well."
Kilde's late heroics robbed Kline of a sensational career first on one of the most difficult downhill courses.
"I knew it was going to be a long race," Kline said. "But the adrenaline was pumping up."
Kline saw some of the pre-race favourites go out. Erik Guay of Canada, world champion in this German resort in 2011 and twice winner on the Kandahar hill, veered off course and missed a gate. So did Hannes Reichelt of Austria, last year's winner here and the fastest in practice, who went out at the very same spot.
Johan Clarey of France crashed heavily and slid down the hill before standing up and skiing into the finish area to the cheers of the crowd.
"When I saw the favourites going out, I thought I had a chance," Kline said. "I had a great run but I never thought that I could finish that high. It's a big step for me."
Feuz, who came third in Kitzbuehel, was .24 back in third, with Innerhofer only .01 behind him in fourth. Adrien Theaux was fifth, .29 seconds behind the winner.
"I've had very little training. I benefited from the fact that some of the top guys went out," Feuz said. The Swiss is coming back from an Achilles' tendon injury.
Benjamin Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was the top Canadian in 12th.
Another late starter, Matteo Marsaglia, with bib No. 52, shared sixth place with Travis Ganong of the United States. They were .65 seconds off the pace.
"I wasn't really sure I was going to be able to ski this week with my knee - I had a bone bruise after Kitzbuehel," Ganong said after his best finish on the Kandahar course. "I'm just really happy that I pushed through and raced today because it's an awesome result."
(This story has been corrected to show that Svindal is downhill leader, not overall leader.)
Nesha Starcevic, The Associated Press