By SKI RACING MAGAZINE NEWS SERVICE
Americans Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety gave the U.S. Ski Team its first-ever World Cup giant slalom sweep at Soelden, Austria last weekend.
Vonn, 27, won her first World Cup giant slalom Saturday, Oct. 22 bringing her World Cup career win total to 42. By doing so, Vonn showed the world she's very serious about taking back the World Cup overall title she won in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before losing it in the final race last season.
"I worked really hard in slalom and giant slalom this summer. I spent a month in New Zealand focusing on those two events and I know I made a lot of progress. I'm glad it's showing up in the races," said Vonn, who collapsed with glee in the finish area. "It's so positive for me to have this result today. I have a lot of momentum and confidence now going into the rest of the season."
Vonn's wins have come primarily in downhill (21) and super G (14). She also has four combined and two slalom wins. The win moved Vonn into a tie with Anja Paerson as the fourth winningest woman in World Cup history.
On Sunday, the 27-year-old Ligety methodically started the defense of his 2011 World Cup GS crown with the first win of the 2012 season Sunday, Oct. 23 at Soelden and made the U.S. two-for-two on the weekend.
The winner of the Cup GS title in three of the last four seasons, Ligety took the first run lead ( by .18 seconds) then scorched the second heat to take the win away from French 20 year old Alexis Pinturault.
"I've been on the podium a bunch of times here so to finally win is definitely an added bonus," said Ligety, who owns three previous top-three finishes on the Austrian hill.
"What Lindsey did yesterday was pretty cool, it's crazy to think that it's been 20 or so years that a U.S. woman has won a World Cup GS so for us both to get the top step here is cool."
Vonn's Soelden victory
Fourth after the first run, Vonn put in a stellar second run effort, notably on the lower section of the steep track down the face of the Rettenbach Glacier above Soelden.
"My tactic on both runs was to ski well on the pitch but not risk too much, then right after the pitch I wanted to carry as much speed as I could onto the flats through the finish," said Vonn, who can no longer call GS a weakness.
She added, "It's difficult to be fast in five events. I've always worked really hard and tried to be successful in slalom and giant slalom but it didn't always work out. Finally I was able to get this win today and it feels so good to finally have your hard work pay off."
Last season's winner here and defending World Cup GS titleholder, German Viktoria Rebensburg came closest to catching Vonn, a scant .04 back and Austrian speed-star Elisabeth Goergl finished four tenths behind.
Vonn had a less-than-ideal week leading up to the opening race. She fell on her hip during a training run last Saturday on an icy slope and stayed off her skis for the rest of the week.
"I fell pretty hard training on Saturday and I didn't ski all week, so it wasn't great preparation for Soelden but I had done it before in Aspen a few years ago where I didn't ski before and just went to the race and did well," said Vonn. "I knew I could do it I just had to believe in my self and believe in my skiing."
Julia Mancuso gave the U.S. two skiers in the top 10 with a tenth place finish.
She said, "When I finish top-ten it feels good. I definitely know where I can improve, so it's good to leave the hill with lots of positive things but also wanting more. It's really cool to start the season in Austria where they are stoked about ski racing, I'm super excited to be back in race mode."
Defending overall champion, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch stood 12th after the first run, then completely fell apart in the second run as she struggled to keep her edges in the snow around several high-speed corners. She finished 24th.
Ligety saves best for Sunday
Ligety and the U.S. team have been training on the hill for the last two weeks, but the Park City, Utah native saved plenty for race day.
He said, "You never know what's going to happen in a race. I was skiing fast in training but that doesn't really count for anything until you do it in a race. There is a lot more anxiety having it be the first race of the year and to win, especially against guys like that is awesome."
American star Bode Miller, 34, contributed ninth place.
"Bode was frustrated with his first run of skiing, he didn't ski very well on the pitch, but the second run I was really inspired by the 10 or so turns he linked up on the pitch," said U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick. "He was putting the ski on edge clean and keeping it in the fall line, it was awesome to watch. A great effort by him today."
But on this October day it was Ligety in control.
It was his ninth career World Cup win and his first at Soelden, but this is a hill he is comfortable with. It was his fourth consecutive podium result at the site.
Ligety became the third U.S. skier to win at Soelden, which was recently named the European home base for the U.S. Team through the next three years.