YANQING, China, Feb 2 - A little over a year after a cruel knee injury left him on crutches, Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is the favorite in both of the men's Olympic alpine skiing speed events -- downhill and super-G.
Kilde, who despite his name is not related to Norwegian alpine skiing legend Kjetil Andre Aamodt, will be looking to convert his superb form on the World Cup circuit into his first Olympic medal when the alpine competition kicks off with the men's downhill at the Yanqing Alpine Centre.
Four years ago in Pyeongchang, Aksel Lund Svindal became the first Norwegian to win Olympic gold in the men's downhill -- alpine skiing's blue riband event -- with compatriot Kjetil Jansrud taking silver.
But with Svindal retired and Jansrud only recently recovered from a knee injury of his own, it is up to Kilde to carry the team, and it bodes well for Norway that he has arrived in China in sparkling form.
Kilde, who is dating American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, was part of the Norwegian contingent at the Sochi and Pyeongchang Games and finished 13th in super-G at both. His best Olympic performance in downhill was 15th place in 2018.
This time round the stage is set for him to take up Svindal's mantle and there are positive signs he is ready for the task.
Kilde tore his ACL in January 2021 but has returned stronger than ever, winning six World Cup races this season, three each in downhill and super-G, making him the man to beat in the speed events.
"Kilde is a freak of nature," Norway's physical trainer Daniel Tangen said. "He dominates physical training. He's the perfect athlete.
"He is incredibly strong in every aspect. His endurance and power ... is beyond me."
Tangen compared Kilde's physical prowess to that of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team.
"Those guys are some of the best-trained athletes in the world and Kilde is right up there," Tangen added. "He would fit right in with them."
Kilde's victory in the first Kitzbuehel World Cup downhill race last month took him to the top of the downhill standings.
He also won three back-to-back World Cup super-G races and is second in the overall World Cup standings behind Switzerland's Marco Odermatt.
The 29-year-old's performances show he has what it takes to help Norway move on from the retirement of Svindal, who won two Olympic gold medals and five world championships in his glittering career.
Kilde himself is aware of the shoes he must fill to get Norway's Olympic campaign off to the right start.
"Throwback to my first two Olympics and some great memories with these two heroes," he said on Instagram beneath a picture of himself with Svindal and Jansrud, before leaving for China.
View social media post: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZN10Cco6WE
"Proud to be representing my country once again in Beijing 2022. Let's go."