By the U.S. Ski Team, Ski Racing Magazine News Service and idaho Mountain Express
On a bright and sunny day at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, American Julia Mancuso continued her medal-winning heroics and three-time World Cup overall queen Lindsey Vonn suffered a rare disappointment Tuesday on the opening day of the 2011 World Alpine Championships on the German slope.
Picking up silver with a run that seemed to get better as it progressed was the amazing 26-year-old Mancuso from Squaw Valley. She tacked one more batch of sand into cementing her reputation as a big event skier.
The American title ace (3 Olympic medals and now 4 World Championship medallions) displayed magnificent control over a difficult, dappled and icy Kandahar course to come with five hundredths of her first championship.
In seventh was defending all-world queen Vonn, looking, perhaps, just a touch tentative after having railed on organizers the day before the event for offering a course too dangerous for female skiers. Though the course seemed ideally suited for her strength and tactical skill, Vonn, 26, did not attack as she routinely does.
The race winner was Austria's Elisabeth Goergl. Making sweet high speed turns as well as anyone, she earned her first championship. Goergl, 29, had taken bronze medals at the 2009 title meet in combined and at last season's Olympics in downhill and GS.
It is also Goergl's first win of the season, and it was a good time to pull one out of the bag. "It all just worked," said Goergl. "I fully attacked."
Even though it is bronze and not gold, expect a huge celebration throughout Garmisch with the epicenter on Wildenauer Strabe, the home base of Germany's great Maria Riesch. She skied immediately after Goergl and, like Mancuso, just missed the top prize finishing .21 of a second off the Austrian's time.
As the 12-day International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Championships move ahead, current Audi FIS World Cup overall leaders Riesch of Germany and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia will be skiers to watch.
The U.S. Ski Team has four legitimate medal hopefuls in 2009 world championship women's downhill and super giant slalom champion Vonn, plus her big-game teammate Mancuso and men's leaders Bode Miller and Ted Ligety.
Miller enters the season's main event as a four-time world champion fresh on the heels of a podium at the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria during January.
Mancuso, a three-time Olympic and World Championships medalist, surges into Garmisch with World Cup podium finishes in both downhill and super G this season.
Ligety owns a giant slalom bronze from the 2009 worlds, but will be the odds on favorite this time around after sweeping the first three World Cup giant slalom races of the 2010-11 season.
NBC Sports and Universal Sports will provide complete television coverage of the 2011 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 8-20 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
UniversalSports.com will carry live and on-demand streaming of every race with same day coverage on their 24-hour TV network.
The NBC Sports Olympic alpine broadcast team of Tim Ryan, Todd Brooker and Sun Valley's Christin Cooper will be calling the event with Steve Porino providing on-site analysis throughout the competition.
NBC's weekend coverage features premier events like men's and women's downhill, women's slalom and men's giant slalom. Get a complete schedule at UniversalSports.com.
"The World Championships host nearly the same field as the Olympics, so it's going to be a great show," said Vonn. "I get notes from fans all season-long saying they saw my race on Universal Sports. It's cool to know that the outlets are there and that fans are tuning in."
Racing began Tuesday, Feb. 8 with the women's super G and runs through Sunday, Feb. 20 concluding with men's slalom.
NBC Sports broadcast schedule (all times Mountain Time):
Saturday, Feb. 12: 11 a.m.-12 noon—men's downhill, highlights of women's super G and super combined.
Sunday, Feb. 13: 10-10:30 pm.—women's downhill.
Saturday, Feb. 19: 1-2 p.m.—women's slalom, highlights of men's giant slalom.
Universal Sports broadcast schedule (all times Mountain Time):
Wednesday, Feb. 9: 10-11:30 a.m.—men's super G.
Friday, Feb. 11: 9-11 a.m.—women's super combined.
Saturday, Feb. 12: 1:30-3 p.m.—men's downhill.
Sunday, Feb. 13: 10:30 a.m.-noon—women's downhill.
Monday Feb. 14: 10 a.m.-12—men's super combined.
Thursday, Feb. 17: 9-10:30 a.m.—women's giant slalom.
Friday, Feb. 18: 9-10:30 a.m.—men's giant slalom.
Saturday, Feb. 19: 2-3 p.m.—women's slalom.
Sunday, Feb. 20: 9-10:30 a.m., men's slalom.
World Cup standings before worlds
It remains an uphill battle for Vonn to win her fourth straight World Cup women's overall crown this winter.
After the two technical races at Arber-Zweisel, Vonn fell another 11 points behind her good friend Riesch in the hunt for the overall title. It could have a deeper hole if slalom discipline leader Riesch hadn't DNFd Saturday's German slalom.
Reisch, seeking her first World Cup overall title, leads Vonn 1,256 to 1,100 over halfway through season. Far behind is Austria's Goergl in third with 678. Mancuso stands in fifth place with 574 points.
For Riesch, it's been a matter of pecking away at Vonn. Finishing as the overall runner-up the past two years, Riesch was 364 points behind Vonn in 2009 and 155 behind the U.S. winner last March.
Technical races have been Vonn's drawback this season.
Although Vonn leads the downhill, super giant slalom and combined standings and Riesch doesn't have the lead in any discipline, Riesch has amassed 610 points in giant slalom and slalom, compared to Vonn's 170 in GS and SL.
In the men's standings, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic (1,249 points) has extended his overall lead to 524 points over second-place Didier Cuche of Switzerland (725).
U.S. speed ace Miller made a move at Hinterstoder—picking up 89 points to move from 13th place to ninth with 471. Ligety fell two spots to 12th, 464.
Men race at Hinterstoder, Austria
Austrian Hannes Reichelt won a World Cup super G in Hinterstoder, Austria Saturday, Feb. 5, taking the prize with a time of one minute, 43.91 seconds. Teammate Benjamin Raich was 0.34 seconds behind in second while American Bode Miller finished 0.93 seconds off the pace in third.
The win marked Reichelt's fifth career World Cup victory. His last win came in 2008 at Bormio. It was Miller's second time on the Hinterstoder podium. He won the last super G here in 2006.
Led by Miller, who secured his first World Cup super G podium since 2008, the U.S. had a solid day putting three men into scoring position. Young Tommy Ford, 21, notched a new World Cup career high in 11th place from all the way back in the 65 bib. Ted Ligety got out the speed boards to land 21st. Travis Ganong was 4.16 seconds back to finish 34th.
"Bode came out and hustled top to bottom, and just wanted to go, go go," said U.S men's head coach Sasha Rearick, who thought Miller was one mistake from today's win. "He made a lot of mistakes but it was cool to see him put down those runs where you know he's got some speed."
On Sunday, Austrian Philipp Schoerghofer grabbed his first career World Cup win, taking a giant slalom on home snow in Hinterstoder. First run leader, Norway's Kjetil Jansrud finished second, only three hundredths of a second ahead of Swiss Carlo Janka in third.
American Bode Miller, tied for 28th after the first run, had a fresh course for Round 2 and cruised to the fastest second-run time (1:23.60), climbing to the ninth spot on the day to lead four U.S men into the points.
"That was inspiring skiing," said U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick of Miller's performance. "It was fun to see Bode on a turny course like that just chuck himself down the hill and ski aggressive. Bode is finding his gear and putting in the type of inspiring skiing which is fun for us to watch and for him to throw down. We're looking forward to going to World Champs."
Fellow American Ted Ligety, who won three consecutive World Cup GS races in December, finished 13th.
Women at Zwiesel, Germany
After being put off by fog and wind, a women's World Cup giant slalom was finally held Sunday, Feb. 6 in Arber-Zwiesel, Germany as Gemany's own Viktoria Rebensburg took the victory.
Rebensburg secured her second World Cup win of the season (her first came at the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria) with a half-second advantage over Italian Federica Brignone in second. Austrians Kathrin Zettel and Elizabeth Goergl finished third and fourth, respectively.
Vonn headed up the U.S. Ski Team in 18th ahead of Mancuso 21st and Sarah Schleper 25th. World Cup overall leader Maria Riesch of Germany landed 11th.
On Friday, wind and dense fog made the women's World Cup slalom in Arber-Zwiesel, Germany all the more interesting as Austrian Marlies Schild collected her fifth win of the season and stepped to the top of the slalom standings.
Schild, third after the first run, attacked the second run to finish with a .68-second combined advantage ahead of Slovakia's Veronika Zuzlova, who screamed with joy in the finish area in second. Finn veteran Tanja Poutiainen was 1.78 seconds back to claim the last podium spot.
Schild has won every slalom she has finished this season and Friday took the discipline lead from overall leader, German Maria Riesch, who crashed early in her first run today.
Schild now holds the slalom lead with 500 points, followed by Poutiainen with 460 and Riesch with 420. Schild also won the last World Cup slalom held in Zwiesel in 2007.
The U.S. Team's tech struggles continued as its top guns sat today's race out and Resi Stiegler, the lone American in the second run, was disqualified. She was the only U.S. skier to reach the 30-woman second run, after finishing 13th in the first run. The Jackson Hole, Wyo. native, who returned to racing this season after being plagued by injuries over the last three years, lost her rhythm early in the second run and was disqualified after missing a gate.
Vonn and Mancuso opted to sit out Friday's slalom looking ahead to the FIS World Championships.
"I was originally planning to run the slalom, but changed my plan after Sestriere in favor of some more giant slalom training prior to World Championships," said Mancuso. "The training in Reiteralm was awesome. One day I had the entire place to myself and they gave me a snowmobile so I could make quicker laps. Hopefully the extra training pays off in tomorrow's giant slalom and also next week at World Champs."
Vonn, who suffered a head injury while training earlier this week, pulled out of the race just before the firs run to continue to rest.
"I got up this morning prepared to race, but after a few warm-up runs, I wasn't feeling confident on my skis," said Vonn. "Normally I can fight through injuries, but head injuries are different. You can't just grit your teeth and go."