Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vonn cracks top 10 in Slovenian gates

Cuche wins fifth Hahnenkamm downhill

Overall women's leader Lindsey Vonn, 27, of the U.S. Ski Team is enjoying continued success in Audi FIS World Cup technical alpine races.

The current World Cup downhill and super giant slalom leader added 86 points to her season point total by cracking the top 10 in each of the World Cup technical races Saturday and Sunday at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

Vonn placed fourth in Saturday's giant slalom, just missing the podium, and added a second-place finish in Sunday's slalom.

She entered the weekend with a 291-point lead over Tina Maze of Slovenia and yielded only nine points, ending the two-day Slovenian stop with a 282-point lead over Maze.

Meanwhile, last year's World Cup men's overall winner Ivica Kostelic, 32, of Croatia overtook season-long men's World Cup overall leader Marcel Hirscher, 22, of Austria by 30 points during the 72nd Hahnenkamm weekend at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Kostelic, the 2003 world championship slalom gold medalist, placed third in Sunday's Hahnenkamm slalom. He won the traditional combined, with American Ted Ligety, 27, placing fifth.

Setting a record Saturday during the snow-shortened Hahnenkamm downhill at Kitzbuehel was Didier Cuche of Switzerland. He captured his fifth Hahnenkamm DH victory, just two days after announcing he will retire at the end of the current season. It was Cuche's 19th World Cup victory in a career spanning from 1993-2012.

Cuche, 37, is the reigning World Cup downhill and super giant slalom king. He was second to Kostelic in last season's overall standings. Cuche won the FIS World Championship gold medal in SG in 2009.

Friday's Hahnenkamm men's SG was canceled by snow.

Here are top World Cup standings and top Americans after the four events (2 men, 2 women) at Kitzbuehel and Kransjka Gora last weekend:

Men: 1—Ivica Kostelic (Cro.) 755 points, SL and combined leader. 2—Marcel Hirscher (Aust.) 725. 3—Beat Feux (Switz.) 585, DH leader. 4—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 508, SG leader. 5—Ted Ligety (USA) 493, GS leader. 6—Bode Miller (USA) 450.

Women: 1—Lindsey Vonn (USA) 970 points, DH and SG leader. 2—Tina Maze (Slov.) 688. 3—Marlies Schild (Aust.) 548, SL leader. 4—Elisabeth Goergl (Aust.) 516. 5—Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germ.) 506. 7—Julia Mancuso (USA) 422.

The women's World Cup moves to St. Moritz, Switz. for downhill, super G and super combined this coming weekend. The men's tour shifted to Schladming, Austria for the annual night slalom on Tuesday, Jan. 24.


Women at Kransjka Gora

Vonn missed the Kranjska Gora giant slalom podium by three hundredths of a second to finish fourth. The Olympic downhill champion slipped a few gates before the finish and dropped both hands in the snow, but made a quick recovery to stay on an icy course conquered by Tessa Worley of France.

Vonn now sits third in the World Cup giant slalom standings.

U.S. coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, "Lindsey had an OK first run, but she was really charging in the second run. We thought she was going to take the lead, but then she slipped a few gates from the finish and actually had to put both hands on the snow to save it. Without that, she might have been in it for another GS win. Still, she took some great points today and is consistently showing that she can challenge for the top of the podium in GS."

On Sunday, Vonn continued to put consistency in her technical skiing, recording her best slalom finish of the season in seventh at Kranjska Gora. Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser snapped the five-slalom win string of her teammate Marlies Schild in taking the win. Vonn also moved into the top 15 in the World Cup slalom standings.

Cuche captures another Hahnenkamm DH

Swiss Didier Cuche won a historic fifth Hahnenkamm downhill Saturday to surpass Austrian legend Franz Klammer for the most downhill wins at Kitzbuehel. Klammer, covered in wet snow, was in the race finish to congratulate Cuche, who announced Thursday that he will retire from the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup tour at the end of the season.

Heavy snow fell overnight and throughout the race forcing the jury to shorten the notorious Streif by three quarters of a second. It started on the Alte Schneise below the treacherous Mausefalle and Steilhang sections. Nevertheless Cuche captured his third straight Hahnenkamm downhill.

For the Americans, Travis Ganong, 23, of Squaw Valley, posted the top U.S. result with a personal best 12th. Bode Miller, 34, of Franconia, N.H. made a spectacular recovery from a near crash just below the Hausberg jump to finish 29th. He hit a bump after the Hausberg jump, nearly lost his right ski, was thrown sideways and miraculously pulled it back to make the next gate.

Miller said, "This was less than ideal conditions but in any race, someone is going to win. It's no fluke that Didier won. He's great off this start position and he's always strong in that middle section—that's where he's won this race a few times. For me I was pushing pretty hard and I knew I had to take some risks, but there's not a lot of risks to be had on this course because there's not that much to it."

On Sunday, Nolan Kasper, 22, of Warren, Vt. tied for 14th in slalom Sunday to lead three Americans into the Kitzbuehel top 30. Jimmy Cochran, 30, of Keene, N.H. was 19th and Colby Granstrom, 21, of Lake Stevens, Wash. 24th as Italian Christian Deville captured his first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup win.

Kasper said, "It was a fight with the snow and the weather, but this hill is always difficult. It was fun to watch and it was fun to be a part of. The first run didn't feel all that good, but I stayed in a decent position and was able to come back and put together a decent second run. I'm still and up and coming guy, so there's a lot to look forward to."

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