Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ligety, Vonn capture World Cup wins Sunday

Battle has been joined between Vonn, Riesch

Courtesy photo by Getty Images/Matt Stockman Ted Ligety charges to a win in the Audi Birds of Prey GS in Beaver Creek.

By the U.S. Ski Team

The battle has been joined between Lindsey Vonn and her German friend Maria Riesch on the 2010-11 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup—and American Ted Ligety has won another World Cup men's giant slalom.

Action heated up on the World Cup last weekend with the Audi FIS Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek Dec. 3-5 at the site of the 2015 Alpine FIS Ski World Championships, and the first World Cup women's speed races at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

Ligety, 26, from Park City, Utah captured his sixth career World Cup victory—all in giant slalom—to salvage the Birds of Prey weekend for the Americans. It was Ligety's first GS win in North America and the 22nd podium finish for the 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist.

Usually dominant in downhill at Lake Louise with seven previous DH wins there, the 26-year-old Vonn came up a little short in the season-opening downhills Friday and Saturday. Riesch won both ahead of runner-up Vonn, but Vonn bounced back Sunday with a super giant slalom win.

It was the 34th career World Cup victory for the 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist and her eighth win at Lake Louise overall, but first in SG. Three-time defending World Cup queen Vonn has won 18 downhills, 11 SG, 2 slalom and 3 combined.

She stands in sixth place in all-time World Cup wins with 34, two behind Katja Seizinger (36) of Germany, who ruled from 1989-98. The all-time leader is Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell (62), from 1969-80.

In World Cup ranks, women's slalom and DH leader Riesch (280 points Lake Louise) leads the women with 514 points. Vonn collected 260 at Lake Louise to move into second place with 345 points (160 DH, 72 SL, 100 SG). American Julia Mancuso is fifth with 204 points.

Vonn is bidding for fourth World Cup overall title, which would put her behind only Moser-Proell (6 overall titles) as the all-time top woman.

Austria's Mario Scheiber (175) has a 17-point lead over Swiss racer Didier Cuche (158) in the men's race. Ligety jumped all the way up to ninth place with 121 points, while Bode Miller faded back to 21st, with 58.

Ligety's win at Beaver Creek

Reigning World Cup giant slalom champ Ted Ligety brought the Colorado crowd to its feet Sunday with a stunning Audi Birds of Prey GS victory, .80 over  Norway's Kjetil Jansrud. The race will air on Versus, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. MST.

"It's nice to have this kind of support from the home crowd," said a beaming Ligety, marking his third podium at Beaver Creek in the last five years. "I've been close a lot of years and it feels awesome to finally get it."

With family, friends and two busloads of young racers from the Park City Ski Team in the stands, Ligety produced an incredible first run, putting him .36 ahead of the field.

Americans Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), Warner Nickerson (Gilford, NH) and Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV) also made the second run with Jitloff finishing 23rd, Nickerson 24th and Miller 27th after losing all his speed in a patch soft snow at the top of the course.

Just minutes before the second run, Ligety was cheered on by teammate Lindsey Vonn in an impromptu phone interview with Beaver Creek race announcer and World Championships downhill medalist Doug Lewis over the Red Tail stadium speakers.

"Ligety is a racehorse, he's knows what to do," said Vonn, who won the super G in Lake Louise earlier in the day. "He's going to attack like he knows how and I'm sure he's going to pull through."

It was the first time since 2006 where two Americans won on the same day. Julia Mancuso added to the U.S. success finishing third in Lake Louise for her first super G podium in Lake Louise.

"I've never won a race after winning the first run," said Ligety. "I asked Aksel [Lund Svindal] at the top how to ski the second run with the lead and he said, 'just ski.' It sounds pretty simple, but it was some of the best advice I've ever had."

"I knew I couldn't let off in the second run today because those guys are chasing me down and it's tough conditions today," explained Ligety. "I just took a lot of risk and it paid off. I've never won this early in the season or on home surface, so it's really a great day."

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) finished 25th in the Audi Birds of Prey super G to boost the U.S. Ski Team's World Cup quota spots in the discipline to 10.

Five of nine U.S. starters, including Miller and Ligety skied out. Austria's Georg Streitberger clinched the victory for the second Audi FIS Alpine World Cup win of his career.

"Four years ago we only had four spots in super G," said Head Coach Sasha Rearick. "We made a big step and now we have 10 spots—the same as Austria, Switzerland and Italy. That's a huge success for us."

"It's pretty disappointing actually to have all those guys go out," said Nyman, who matched his 2008 super G result from Beaver Creek despite started from the 57th starting position. "But I'm happy. I created another spot for the ski team. I haven't scored points in the super G event for over a year now so I'm pretty psyched to get back in there. To go from 57 to 25, I'm stoked."

Another Vonn win in Canada

Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn returned to the top of the Lake Louise podium Sunday with a commanding super G victory over Maria Riesch of Germany. Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) was third as six Americans finished inside the top 25.

"Today I dropped the hammer a little bit more and believed in myself," said Vonn, who barely escaped a near-crash on Saturday. "For me the bottom line is never giving up."

Vonn (1:20.72) crushed the field by nearly a second. "I was really happy with my run today, I wanted to end the weekend on a positive note and really take advantage of the opportunity," said Vonn during a live call broadcast over the stadium speakers between giant slalom runs in Beaver Creek. "I skied with aggression and passion and had a great inspection and really nailed the line. I'm extremely happy with the win."

Sunday's win marked Vonn's 14th podium and eighth win in Lake Louise over the course of six years. It was second podium finish in Lake Louise for Mancuso, who stamped an exclamation mark on the incredible skiing she produced throughout the week.

"I just went out of the gate charging. I was psyched to be on the podium," said Mancuso. "It's nice to have been skiing really well and consistent in the downhill, so to finish it off with a third place and my best super G result there is refreshing. I'm excited and I think it will just get better through the season."

On Saturday, Vonn made spectacular athletic recovery to finish second in downhill for the second straight day at Lake Louise.

She led a pack of seven Americans into the top 25. Audi FIS Alpine World Cup leader Maria Riesch of Germany earned back-to-back downhill wins as Mancuso posted another solid result with sixth.

On a critical left turn midway down the course Vonn's skis released from the snow sending her sailing through the air sideways. The three-time World Cup downhill champion landed hard on her left hip, immediately bounced up, regained her tuck and continued to charge missing the win by .10 seconds.

"I realized I was on my hip and thought I was going into the fence and I just kept thinking 'get back up, get back up, get back up,'" said Vonn, who attributed the save to her rigorous off season conditioning program. "Somehow I caught my edge and was able to stand back up. Once I was on my feet again I just kept thinking 'make up time.'"

"She had probably one of the most amazing recoveries in the history of ski racing," said speed Head Coach Chip White. "She was completely laid out onto her side coming into Fall Away, skipped through the air and was able to get back to her feet. Honestly I thought she was in the fence. Ninety-nine percent of all racers would have been in the fence, but the athleticism of Lindsey was phenomenal. It's unbelievable that she's in the top 20, much less second."

Mancuso continued to show she's a contender landing in the top 10 in her last three World Cup downhill races.

"Julia skied brilliantly," added White. "She skied so clean and so tough. I'm pleased with her performace over the last few days. Normally this is not her hill and she's making something out of it and proving that she's in the game."

On Friday, Olympic champ Vonn kept her success streak at Lake Louise alive finishing second in the opening downhill of the 2011 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season as seven Americans stormed the top 30. Mancuso was just shy of the podium in fourth.

Both Vonn and Mancuso debuted personally designed Spyder speed suits during the women's downhill opener. For the third season Vonn will wear a new Spyder design for each speed weekend this winter.

"I thought I skied really well and unfortunately it wasn't enough for the win today, but I'm really happy with second place," said a sniffling Vonn who is fighting a head cold. "It's just a cold. I've raced through a lot worse things than a cold so I didn't even consider not racing today."

With clear skies and a hard track, Friday's downhill was a tight race with the top three all within two tenths. Riesch (1:28.96) bumped friend and rival Vonn (1:29.08) out of the hot seat by a mere .12, while Austria's Elisabeth Goergl closed out the podium.

"The whole U.S. team did a great job," added Vonn. "We had seven girls in the top 30 and that just shows that we are skiing really well as a team. We've shown in training that we can be fast and I'm glad we stepped it up for the race."

Mancuso said she was skiing while thinking of best friend Chemmy Alcott of Great Brittan, who suffered a severely broken leg in the final training run Thursday.

"I skied solid, but there's definitely room to go faster," said Mancuso, who was on her way to visit Alcott at the hospital in nearby Banff. "I had a long day yesterday just worrying about my friend and going to the hospital just waiting her for her to get done with surgery, so it's nice to have a solid race run under my belt."

"Conditions were awesome, hard, icy and very challenging for the girls. It was a very good race," said Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "Pretty much the whole downhill team is producing results and that's good to see."

The next stop on the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup tour is St. Moritz, Switerzland Dec. 9-12. The men race slalom and giant slalom at Val d'Isere, France the same weekend.

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