Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Big weekend for Ligety, McKennis on World Cup

U.S. Ski Team racer Alice McKennis celebrates her victory on the Kandahar course for the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup downhill race at St Anton, Austria Jan. 12. Photo by Mitchell Gunn/ESPA

Lindsey Vonn got back into her speed game, Ted Ligety remained the master of his giant slalom specialty and the U.S. Ski Team crowned another star in 23-year-old Alice McKennis Saturday in Europe.

Rowmark Ski Academy (Utah) product McKennis of Glenwood Springs, Colo. captured her first FIS Audi World Cup downhill victory Saturday, Jan. 12 at St. Anton, Austria.

In the same downhill, current World Cup downhill leader Lindsey Vonn, 28, of Vail, Colo. bounced back from a three-and-a-half week competitive layoff to tie for sixth place in her return to the circuit from all the ramifications of an intestinal illness.

Olympic champion and four-time Audi FIS World Cup overall champion Vonn jumped up two more places with a fourth place just off the podium in Sunday’s super giant slalom at St. Anton.

And on Saturday, 28-year-old Ligety of Park City, Utah finally got the giant slalom win that had eluded him—winning a World Cup GS on the Adelboden course in Switzerland.

Coming up: The men’s tour visits nearby Wengen, Switz. for the annual Lauberhorn weekend Jan. 18-20 with super combined, downhill and slalom.

The women conducted their night slalom Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Flachau, Austria and then travel to Cortina di Ampezzo, Italy Jan. 19-20 for downhill and super giant slalom events.

In the World Cup standings:

Slovenia’s Tina Maze, 28, stretched her huge overall lead to 1,289 points. Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch is second with 744 and Austria’s Kathrin Zettel stayed in third place with 597. Vonn moved up to fifth place with 504 points and still leads both the downhill standings 240-195 over teammate Stacey Cook, but also the SG standings 250-230 over Maze.

Austria’s Marcel Hirscher leads the overall standings 855-729 over Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway. Having picked up 124 points at Adelboden, Ligety remained in third place with 676 points. He extended his lead in the GS standings over Hirscher to 125 points, a margin of 460-335.


Ligety gets his win at Adelboden

Audi FIS World Cup giant slalom leader Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) finally got the win that had eluded him, taking a victory on the Koenigsberg GS in Adelboden. Ligety claimed the win after first run leader Marcel Hirscher went out near the bottom of the second run while in the lead.

Hirscher appeared to be well on his way to the win when a mistake on the final face knocked him down to 16th. It was Ligety's first career victory on the Koenigsberg. Ligety also matched the great Italian Alberto Tomba's 15 giant slalom wins on the World Cup.

Ligety said afterward, “Today I was really lucky—Marcel Hirscher won this race today. But I’ll take it as I've given him some of those gifts in the past. This has been a tough course for me in my career so I’m happy to get the win. The second run was so dark and this hill is so tiring. I was lucky to have a little bit of reserve strength.”

On matching Tomba’s 15 GS wins, Ligety commented, “That’s a cool feeling. He was one of my childhood heroes. I grew up watching World Cup ski racing and following it. It’s cool to be able to have your name part of that history.

Sunday, the U.S. Ski Team's David Chodounsky came out with skis blazing, laying down the second fastest second run for a career best 10th in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom at Adelboden.

Hirscher was the only faster skier on the second run as he took the win to extend is overall World Cup lead. Saturday's GS winner Ligety was 11th.


McKennis makes a mark at St. Anton

Alice McKennis came out of the No. 4 start position to earn a career first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup win in the challenging downhill in St. Anton.

McKennis led three Americans into the top six—five in the first 15—on a dominating day for the U.S. Ski Team. She became the ninth American to find the podium this season and the fifth winner. McKennis moved into fourth in the downhill standings, with three Americans in the top four.

The No. 1 speed team on the World Cup, the U.S. women hold three of the top four spots in the Audi FIS World Cup standings. McKennis' father, Greg, was in the stands to celebrate her first World Cup win. McKennis grew up on a ranch near Glenwood Springs, learning to ski race at Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Alice McKennis said, “It’s totally shocking for me. I had hoped to be top 10. I skied as hard as I could and it turned out alright. I had one of the best runs I’ve ever had. I’ve never been here before but I knew what I had to do. It’s a really tough course. I had to be really aggressive the whole way and never back off. If you do, it will take control of you.”

Vonn said, “The strength of our team has been really fun to watch. It makes me proud to be a part of a great bunch of girls. For me, I'm just happy to be back. It was definitely tough conditions. I made some mistakes but I felt good and I felt my skiing was where it should be.”

Sunday, Vonn came close to the podium in St. Anton, finishing fourth just a hundredth of a second out of third. Maze continued her total dominance on the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup with the win. Julia Mancuso, 28, of Squaw Valley, Ca. was sixth.

Said Vonn, “I was a little disappointed to be one-hundredth off the podium. But it was a solid performance. I definitely know where I can make up the time. On the bottom of the course I was a little passive. I wasn’t quite as clean as I should have been on some of the left footed turns. But in general my skiing was solid, I’m right there. I just need to be a little bit more aggressive.

“I’m excited to race in Cortina. This weekend every day was better building my confidence back up. Cortina is a place where I’ve had success in the past. I think by the time I get there I’ll be in a position to get back on the podium.”

Commenting on Tina Maze’s success, Vonn said, “It’s amazing to see her do so well. She's been on a roll—top three in every event. She’s clearly running away with the overall. It’s cool to watch. I think it's great for the sport and I’m really happy for her.”

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