Friday, March 15, 2013

Sidelined, Vonn still captures another World Cup downhill globe

Photo by Mitchell Gunn/ESPA Team USA slalom star Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, races down the training hill during the giant slalom training session March 06 in Oberjoch, Germany.

The 2012-13 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals speed events turned out to be weather-plagued bust for everyone but sidelined American Lindsey Vonn and the American women’s team on Wednesday and Thursday at Lenzerheide, Switz.

Fog forced International Ski Federation officials to cancel the final men’s and women’s downhills on Wednesday, and high winds and low visibility canceled the super giant slalom finals for both the men and women Thursday.

Canceled races at World Cup Finals are not rescheduled.

That meant Vonn, 28, of Vail, Colo., sidelined by a knee injury, preserved her slim one-point lead over Slovenia’s Tina Maze and thus won a record 17th Audi FIS Alpine World Cup globe—and a record sixth straight downhill title.

Vonn won three of seven World Cup downhills this season and missed two due to injury following her super G crash at the World Championships. She won the downhill globe 340-339 over Maze. In third place was Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch with 272 points. U.S. racer Stacey Cook was fourth with 244.

With her 17th World Cup globe, Vonn broke the women’s record of 16 she previously shared with Annemarie Moser-Proell. Only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark has more with 19.

Vonn’s win while sidelined had a karma-like feel to it. Two years ago, Vonn was battling for the overall World Cup title with her friend Hoefl-Riesch at Lenzerheide when both the super giant slalom and women’s giant slalom were canceled due to fog, soft snow and other weather problems.

Hoefl-Riesch ended up winning her first and only World Cup title by a mere three points, 1,728 to 1,725 over Vonn.

Three other American women finished in this year’s downhill top 12—ninth-place Julia Mancuso with 202 points, 10th-place Alice McKennis with 198 and 12th-place Leanne Smith with 180.

Wednesday’s outcome cemented the U.S. Ski Team’s win of the women’s downhill standings by 457 points over the Swiss thanks to nine U.S. podiums from five different women. The U.S. prevailed 1,330 to 873.

The women’s downhill domination included five different Americans on nine downhill podiums this season. Vonn had two wins in Lake Louise and one in Cortina, McKennis had one win in St. Anton, Cook had two seconds in Lake Louise, Smith had a second in Val d’Isere and a third in Cortina and Ross had a second in Garmisch.

Vonn said, “It is always an honor to win a title, even if I wish I had done it by competing alongside my teammates over the past month. I hope they will bring home many more titles this season.  This only fuels me to work even harder to get back out on the mountain as soon as I can.”

U.S. Ski Team women’s coach Chip White said, “We are very fortunate to be a part of a great team right now. We have great athletes. We have a great coaching staff, great physical therapists and great servicemen and so it’s very much a team effort.”

Wednesday’s men’s downhill cancelation meant that Marco Sullivan, 32, of Squaw Valley, Ca. ended up finishing 14th in the World Cup downhill standings. It was his best season since 2008 and the top finish for U.S. men.

Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal captured the men’s downhill title, his second of the season. Svindal finished with 439 points to 381 for Klaus Kroell of Austria. Sullivan had 134 points and 24-year-old Travis Ganong, seventh-fastest in Tuesday’s training, ended with 114 points to tie for 18th place.

Svindal also captured the super G title prior to World Cup Finals with 480 points. U.S. technical ace Ted Ligety, 28, of Park City, Utah placed seventh in SG with 159 points.

Said Sullivan, “It’s a bummer that I couldn’t close out the season in Lenzerheide. I had a small knee injury after the World Cup in Norway and it is still a little bit too tender to race World Cup Finals. It was cool to have so much support this season from great people who continued to believe in me. I was back on the World Cup podium and now pumped to head back to Squaw for the U.S. Championships.”

Julia Mancuso, 29, of Squaw Valley, Ca. finished second in the women’s super G standings after officials canceled the women’s Audi FIS World Cup Final super G race Thursday due to high winds and low visibility.

As a result, Mancuso ended the season just a mere 55 points behind Maze, who locked in the overall title last week. Maze edged out Mancuso 420-365. Vonn ended up in fourth place.

Also in super G, Vonn (Vail, CO) ended up in fourth, Leanne Smith (North Conway, NH) 12th, Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) 13th and Stacey Cook (Mammoth Lakes, CA) 34th.

Coming up on the World Cup Finals schedule: Men’s GS and women’s slalom on Saturday, March 16, and men’s slalom and women’s GS on Sunday.

One of the closest discipline races to watch is in slalom, where American teen Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, trails first-place Maze 595-588 going into the homestretch.

In women’s overall standings Maze leads with 2,254 points, Hoefl-Riesch seems to be stalled at 1,065, third-place Anna Fenninger of Austria is rushing hard with 984 and fourth-place Mancuso has 835. Shiffrin is in eighth place with 698 points.

Hirscher leads the overall World Cup standings with 1,375 points to 1,226 for Norway’s Svindal. Ligety stands in third place with 922 points. He is 74 points ahead of fourth-place Felix Neureuther of Germany (848).

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