Wednesday, February 15, 2012

World Cup men take Olympic test runs at Sochi

Vonn keeps 410-point lead in overall

With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the crowd, American star Bode Miller, 34, rode a razor sharp line to finish fourth by a mere two hundredths of a second in the Saturday's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup test of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games downhill.

Miller, from Franconia, N.H., carried the green leader light through the first two timing intervals before his skis hooked up on the middle of the course. It forced him to Miller speed coming into the jump section.

Swiss Beat Feuz won on his 25th birthday and moved within 70 points of World Cup overall leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia after Sunday's super combined finale at Sochi.

It was the first time the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup had ever been staged in Russia. The race was used as a test event for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Miller praised the venue as one of the best alpine competition slopes he's ever seen, but he did offer suggestions for improvements.

Miller said, "The technical tough part is on the top, it's the first minute or so. The setup of this hill is good, the jumps are awesome—they're huge as you can see, but they have good landings and straight take-offs, so it sets up for a great natural downhill. But they do have to figure out how much risk they're willing to take with the course set.

"The athletes will ski whatever. The Olympic downhill has to be the real thing and especially when you have such a great venue as this, it would be awesome to showcase it, but this is way too turny for a downhill. It is tough when they've never run a race before, but I'm sure they're learning as much as we are and I'm sure they'll figure out how to use this terrain and make something special.

"A downhill should be a challenge, it should be dangerous and it should have risk. Part of that comes from carrying speed off of terrain and into big turns. If it doesn't challenge athletes, then you won't ever see their best. The Olympics and World Cup deserves to provide an opportunity for athletes to show their best. It's got to be tough."

U.S. Ski Team racer Travis Ganong, 23, of Squaw Valley, Ca. added, "This is the coolest hill I've ever seen for ski racing—downhill, super G—it doesn't matter. This hill is just awesome top-to-bottom. It's has really steep technical sections, really cool rolls and terrain with bank turns and then big jumps and the mountains around here are gorgeous. The set can probably use some change before the Olympics and they'll work on that in the next couple of years, but in general this is a great hill."

Sunday at Sochi, Miller was bounced out of the slalom as Croatian Ivica Kostelic won to secure the season-long Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super combined title. Swiss Beat Fuez, who won Saturday's downhill, was second to move within 70 points of Kostelic in the overall chase. The race closed the first men's test events held at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games alpine venue.

Yet Kostelic's super combined victory was costly. It was reported that Kostelic needed knee surgery Monday in Switzerland after tests showed a partial tear in his right meniscus.

Meanwhile, the persistent strong winds were the big story as the World Cup women visited Soldeu-Grandvalira, Andorra for technical races.

Three-time World Cup overall queen Lindsey Vonn, 27, of Vail, Colo. only gave up 72 points of her huge overall lead, despite DNFing Saturday's slalom and with her eighth-place in Sunday's giant slalom. Slovenian Tina Maze was second in GS Sunday to reduce Vonn's overall lead to 410 points with six weeks left in the season.


Tessa Worley of France won Sunday to overtake the giant slalom points lead with 310 points. Vonn (249) sits fourth in GS rankings by 61 points. But she leads the downhill, super giant slalom and super combined points.

In her quest for the overall season title, Vonn is trying to take sole possession of second place in all-time titles with four. Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell leads with six titles from 1971-79, while Vonn is tied with three others in second place, with three.

Here are top World Cup standings and top Americans after the six events (2 men, 2 women) at Sochi and in Andorra last weekend:

Women: 1—Lindsey Vonn (USA) 1,382 points. 2—Tina Maze (Slov.) 972. 3—Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germ.) 856. 4—Elisabeth Goergl (Aust.) 719. 5—Anna Fenninger (Aust.) 707. 6—Marlies Schild (Aust.) 659. 7—Julia Mancuso (USA) 622.

Men: 1—Ivica Kostelic (Cro.) 1,043 points. 2—Beat Feux (Switz.) 973. 3—Marcel Hirscher (Aust.) 825. 4—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 691. 5—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 661. 7—Bode Miller (USA) 612. 9—Ted Ligety (USA) 578, leads the GS standings 380-365 over Hirscher.

The women's World Cup moves to Sochi, Russia for 2014 Olympic Winter Games test events of downhill and super combined this coming weekend. The men's tour moves to Bansko, Bulgaria for a giant slalom and slalom Feb. 18-19.

Shiffrin 10th in Andorra

The winds were fierce for World Cup women in Andorra.

On Friday, relentless high winds across the Pyrenees canceled the first of two Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom races scheduled in the small Andorran village of Soldeu.

Overnight gusts hit 100 mph destroying banners and lifting finish tents into the Valira d'Orient river. The race was a make-up for the Dec. 17 giant slalom that was canceled after three feet of snow fell in Courchevel, France.

The race was delayed two-and-a-half hours before the jury cancellation.

Saturday, the gusting winds couldn't slow 16-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin of Eagle-Vail, Colo. from jumping from 20th to 10th in the final run at the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup held in Andorra. It was the third World Cup top 10 on what is Shiffrin's rookie season. She produced the fourth fastest second run after finishing 20th in the opening run.

Vonn fell victim to the tricky visibility did not finish the first run. Austria's Marlies Schild claimed slalom victory for the sixth time this winter.

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