Friday, February 11, 2011

Italy’s Innerhofer tough on a tough SG course

Bode Miller is stripped of his right pole in Garmisch Wednesday. Courtesy photo by Getty Images/Agence Zoom/Christophe Pallot

By the U.S. Ski Team, Ski Racing Magazine News Service and idahoMountain Express

     Wednesday’s men's super G of the 2011 International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany today was not just a gorgeous test, it was an exam.

     Italy’s Christof Innerhofer graduated, rising to the challenge to record the second ever super giant slalom championship for an Italian male. Innerhofer had finished just off the podium in fourth place at the 2009 world championship SG at Val d’Isere, France.

     In collecting his first career super G victory the 26-year-old Innerhofer pushed Austrian Hannes Reichelt into second and a silver medal while the incredible Ivica Kostelic continued what is surely a career season with the bronze.

     U.S. speed star Bode Miller, definitely gunning for the championship, produced his usual exciting performance but wound up in the same 12th-place spot he took two years ago at worlds at Val d’Isere.

     Miller survived his first error and cashed in after the second, standing for the final gates of the Kandahar 2 course and wound up 12th, narrowly ahead of U.S. youngster Tommy Ford in 14th.

     The gnarly track itself was the day’s true star—or perhaps villain. Under a clear sky, the tough but fair course dropped through the Bavarian forest presenting a hard but scratchable surface. It took until the eighth skier of the morning, Austrian Romed Baumann, before anyone had truly skied the course. As the core of the first seed rolled through the start order it became evident the man who could conquer the Kandahar would be a true champion.

     Miller, running 11th, appeared he might be that man.

     With a lead he caught his arm on a gate and had his ski pole ripped from his grip. It wasn't so much a mistake as a misfortune. The gate had caused grief to most of the 10 racing in front of him and would continue to pester the field. Miller was on a high enough line and though his momentum was sucked away by the drag of his pole, he continued to put up good splits.

     His second mistake, above the finish, was much more costly. Without hope of the win in a race where fourth place matters not a wit, he stood and coasted to the finish.

     “Once I made that mistake, I could have tucked to the finish, but my speed was already gone,” Miller said. “It was challenging, but I think it was what this course really should be. If it was smooth and soft it would have been really basic. You see a guy like Innerhofer ski that way he deserves to win it. I was impressed with the way he skied.”

     Innerhofer, who has produced half of his top six World Cup placings this season, was clean and on line in his run as well as six tenths of a second faster than the Austrian.

     “I really liked the course, actually,” said Innerhofer who dedicated the victory to a large group from his fan club present. “I felt great, felt strong. I promised myself I would not take fourth again. I tried to be as aggressive as I could. It's better to let the skis run and not think about it too much.”

     Kostelic, a slalom winner on the World Cup since 2001 and the World slalom champ in 2003, has a new found artistry in the speed disciplines, something he illustrated in certain fashion by winning the Kitzbuehel super G just weeks ago.

     Defending champion Didier Cuche skied well but dropped back steadily from the leaders to finish fourth, more than a second off the winning pace.

     At 36 Cuche has seen his share of tough courses, but said if this test wasn't the most difficult it was near the top of the list. “It is a really tough course, a long and blind super G. The snow is hard, but that is not the problem. The problem is that it is so bumpy it makes you really tired and makes it hard to keep the perfect line.”

     Kostelic said he would need to skip some race during the rest of this World Championship to recover. He said, “Really it was THE most difficult run I have ever competed in, in any discipline. You had to go to your physical limits.”

     Kostelic said with the surface in the shade and the sun reflecting off snow covered mountains makes visibility very difficult on the course, heightening the impact of the bumpiness of the course. He also said he expended enough energy to supply a nuclear power plant, but added, “It makes me really proud to be the first male medal in speed events for Croatia.” There are, he said, no super G tracks anywhere in the country.

     Racing began Tuesday, Feb. 8 with the women's super G and runs through Sunday, Feb. 20 concluding with men's slalom. Here are broadcast times:

     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):

     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.

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