Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slovenia’s Tina Maze sets down a GS marker

Three wins in three World Cup races

U.S. alpine ski racer Ted Ligety taking a gate en route to winning the Audi FIS World Cup Birds of Prey men’s giant slalom Dec. 2 at Beaver Creek, Colo. It was his 13th career World Cup win and second straight GS victory this season. U.S. Ski Team photos by Eric Schramm

It’s been virtually all Vonn and Maze so far on the White Circus women’s alpine tour.

Four-time Audi FIS World Cup queen Lindsey Vonn, 28, hasn’t fully recovered in stamina after being hospitalized with intestinal illness in November. But she has 57 World Cup wins and four this season.

Meanwhile, Slovenia’s Tina Maze, 29, with only 15 World Cup career wins, is just about at the top of her game.

Vonn’s slow start in everything but the speed events combined with Maze’s strong start in everything, period, has defined the women’s World Cup in the early going.

Currently, Vonn and Maze are dominating the World Cup, sharing eight wins in the 10 races to date in the 2012-13 season. But Maze has built a lead of over 200 points in the overall standings behind three giant slalom victories in three starts, and an early season jam-packed with consistent finishes.

Last weekend at St. Moritz, Switz., Maze won Friday’s super combined and Sunday’s giant slalom, sandwiched around Vonn’s super giant slalom victory Saturday. Vonn had hoped to pick up points but didn’t have the fitness to push through the two-run races.

For instance, while 2011 world GS queen Maze won Sunday’s GS at St. Moritz, Vonn struggled. She was fifth after the opening run and up nearly a full second in the final, but needed to save a mid-race crash to finish 27th.

Afterward, Vonn said, “I was just dead. Two-run races are really hard for me right now. I caught on the inside ski a little bit. Normally I should make that kind of recovery.”

The upshot was that Vonn started the three-race St. Moritz weekend 87 points behind Maze in the overall standings, but the American left the Swiss hill with a 263-point deficit to the 2010 Olympic super giant slalom and giant slalom medalist from Slovenia.

Maze, last year’s World Cup overall runner-up to Vonn, currently tops the World Cup standings with 677 points ahead of second-place Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany (443) and third-place Vonn (414). Julia Mancuso is fifth with 251 points and downhiller Stacey Cook 10th with 167.

In updated men’s overall standings after nine races, 28-year-old Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah remained in second place with 402 points behind leader Aksel Lund Svindal, 29, of Norway (440). Ligety leads GS standings with 260 points.

Next up: The World Cup women compete in downhill and super giant slalom at Val d’Isere, France Dec. 14-15, and giant slalom at Courchevel, France on Sunday, Dec. 16.

The men visit Val Gardena and Alta Badia, Italy for downhill, super giant slalom and giant slalom Dec. 14-16.

After St. Moritz, Vonn said about her upcoming speed challenges, “I have got to win every speed race. I just have to rest up for next weekend. Right now, I’m definitely not feeling great.”

Here’s a weekend recap from St. Moritz and Val d’Isere:


Split decision favors Maze on Swiss hill

Maze made a bold statement in her quest to win the Audi FIS World Cup overall and giant slalom title by capturing her third straight race in the discipline on Sunday, Dec. 9.

Julia Mancuso battled high winds during her final run to lead the U.S. Ski Team with 21st and young gun Mikaela Shiffrin qualified for the final, but did not finish the second run.

Saturday, Vonn skied a tactically-perfect weather-shortened super G to capture her 57th Audi FIS Alpine World Cup win and fourth this season.

Mancuso continued the USST speed dominance with third, the fourth straight World Cup speed race where two U.S. athletes have been in the top 3. Maze was second by .37 to keep the overall chase tight.

It was the 20th super G podium of Vonn's career placing her second in all-time SG wins behind Austrian great Hermann Maier (24). She is five short of tying another Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell for the women's all-time World Cup victory total with 62.

On Friday, Maze mastered incredibly flat light for a super combined victory in St. Moritz, her third win of the season. Vonn, fourth after the opening leg of super G, skied out in the slalom portion and dropped to fourth in the overall standings.

The race was one of only two scheduled World Cup super combined events this season and will not award a discipline title, however it will be a medal event at the World Championships.


Ligety keeps GS lead at Val d’Isere

Sunday, Ligety finished third in the Audi FIS World Cup giant slalom at Val d’Isere halting his GS win streak at two races. Reigning overall and GS champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria won the race with podium newcomer Stefan Luitz of Germany in second.

Hirscher (380 points) is currently in third place in the overall standings, 22 points behind Ligety. Hirscher sliced the Ligety lead in the GS standings to just 20 points, 260-240.

On Saturday, Ligety knifed through incredibly soft snow in Val d'Isere to finish 12th and gain critical points toward the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall, where he's currently second to Svindal.

USST Head Coach Sasha Rearick said, “The key for Ted in slalom is that he needs to make that next step into the top seven. He's solidified himself in the top 15 and that's a good step in the right direction for him to rack up some more points in the future.”

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