With January's marquee races on the horizon, Austrians made a move on the World Cup last week in the final races of the 2006 race calendar.
Two-time defending World Cup men's downhill king and 2006 Olympic DH silver medalist Michael Walchhofer, 31, ended a 13-race victory drought for the Austrians by taking Thursday's downhill on the Stelvio speed run at Bormio, Italy.
Walchhofer added his 11th World Cup victory and eighth in DH Friday on the same Bormio track. U.S. speed ace and reigning downhill world champion Bode Miller came back with a fourth place DH Friday after skiing out of Thursday's course.
Marco Sullivan of the U.S. Ski Team placed 13th/12th at Bormio.
After 16 men's races, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (579 points) maintains a 39-point lead over runner-up Miller (540) in the overall men's World Cup standings. Miller leads the super giant slalom ranks by 56 points. In overall, Ted Ligety (278) is tied for ninth and Steven Nyman (260) stands in 12th place.
Going into the New Year, the Austrian women are stacked in first through fourth places in the overall World Cup standings ahead of two-time Olympian Lindsey Kildow, 22.
Olympic slalom bronze medalist Marlies Schild, 25, is in first place overall with 597 points ahead of Kathrin Zettel and Nicole Hosp (540 each) and their Austrian teammate Renate Goetschl (441). Kildow has 435 and is first in DH by 115 points. Julia Mancuso (329) is seventh.
Schild seemed on her way to a 12th World Cup victory and fourth straight slalom win in Friday's SL on a brutal course at Semmering, Austria west of Vienna. Schild dominated the first run but got her arm tangled in a gate on the second heat and had to settle for third place.
Friday's slalom winner was Therese Borssen, 22, of Sweden, her first World Cup triumph. The second-place racer was Austria's up-and-coming technical racer Kathrin Zettel, 20, who won Thursday's Semmering giant slalom over Hosp.
The U.S. women just haven't done much at all in GS and SL—a fourth and seventh in GS by Mancuso and a sixth in SL by Resi Stiegler the only top-10 finishes in six gate races to date for the Yanks.
Meanwhile, Sweden's Anja Paerson, 25, possibly reinjured her knee in Thursday's GS and didn't start Friday's SL at Semmering. Paerson recently had surgery on the knee and has had a slow start, after winning the overall title in 2004 and 2005 and taking the 2006 Olympic SL gold.
A four-time world champion, the 5-7, 179-pound Paerson has won 34 World Cup races. A full list of Olympic women's SL champions starting with Sun Valley's Gretchen Fraser in 1948 appears at the end of this story. Who's the only two-time queen?
The World Cup men resume competition Jan. 6-7 with giant slalom and slalom at Adelboden, Switz. Then it's over to Wengen, Switz. for downhill/slalom Jan. 12-14, to Chamonix, Fra. for two downhills Jan. 20-21 and the fabled Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Aust. Jan. 26-28.
Conditions permitting, women have the Snow Queen Trophy night slalom at Zagreb, Croatia Thursday, Jan. 4 followed by the GS/SL weekend Jan. 6-7 in Kransjka Gora, Slovenia. Speed events are planned Jan. 12-14 and Jan. 19-21 at Altenmarkt, Germany and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
Olympic women's slalom champions: 1948—Gretchen Fraser. 1952—Andrea Mead-Lawrence. 1956—Renee Colliard. 1960—Anne Heggtveit.
1964—Christine Goitschel. 1968—Marielle Goitschel. 1972—Barbara Cochran. 1976—Rosi Mittermaier. 1980—Hanni Wenzel. 1984—Paoletta Magoni. 1988-Vreni Schneider. 1992—Petra Kronberger. 1994—Vreni Schneider. 1998—Hilde Gerg. 2002—Janica Kostelic. 2006—Anja Paerson.