The 2013-14 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup circuit returned to action last weekend following the Winter Olympics competition in Russia and headed into its final 10 days.
Speed events for men were staged at Kvitfjell, Norway while the women managed to stage one downhill at Crans Montana, Switz.
Heading into the World Cup finals March 12-16 at Lenzerheide, Switz., Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany are poised to win the overall World Cup titles.
Svindal, 31, last won overall World Cup crowns in 2007 and 2009 and captured the Olympic super giant slalom gold medal in 2010. The five-time world champion and 25-time World Cup winner with 57 podiums has already clinched the 2013-14 downhill and super giant slalom titles—his 10th and 11th World Cup season titles.
After the Kvitfjell weekend, Svindal has 1,032 points and a 77-point lead over two-time defending World Cup overall king Marcel Hirscher of Austria (955). In third is Alexis Pinturault of France with 774 points. U.S. technical star Ted Ligety is fourth with 629 and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud fifth with 603 points. American Bode Miller stands eighth with 518.
Hirscher is seeking to become the first three-peat overall champion since American Phil Mahre did it from 1981-83.
Hoefl-Riesch, 29, earned her only World Cup overall title in 2011. The 5-11, 172-pound German is a three-time Olympic gold medalist including her super combined gold at Sochi, Russia in February. She has 27 World Cup victories and 80 podiums during her 13-year career.
After the Crans Montana weekend, Hoefl-Riesch is first with 1,108 points ahead of Anna Fenninger, 24, of Austria with 951. In third place is Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein with 943 points.
Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, of Colorado stands sixth with 650 points and leads the slalom standings by 80 points with a total of 438 going into the final two slalom races of the season.
Events left on the schedule are men’s giant slalom and slalom March 8-9 at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, and women’s technical events March 6-8 at Are, Sweden—two giant slaloms and one slalom.
Ganong leads U.S. speed crew
Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley, Ca. earned the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup podium of his career with a third place in Friday’s downhill at Kvitfjell. And just 24 hours later, Ganong finished fourth Saturday, a mere .05 seconds from a second downhill podium at Kvitfjell.
Saturday’s race was held from the super G start after consecutive days of fog, rain and wet snow made it impossible for the crews to prepare the full length 1994 Olympic speed track.
Canadian Erik Guay hit 88 mph on the final speed trap to secure the win, the fifth of his career, with a time of 1:22.17. Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H. also landed in the top 10 with eighth in the final men's downhill prior to the March 10-16 World Cup Finals at Lenzerheide.
Only the top 25 athletes in each discipline qualify to start that discipline at World Cup Finals. Athletes with 500 World Cup points can also start in any race and the Junior World Champion can start the discipline they won. So, only Miller (7th) and Ganong (9th) have qualified in downhill for the U.S. Ski Team.
Svindal tied for sixth in Saturday’s downhill, but mathematically secured the season-long downhill title with a 525-360 lead over injured racer Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Guay, who now has 357 points.
Ganong told the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) News Bureau after Saturday’s downhill, “It was another fun day. I wanted to win today. I really thought I could, so I pushed a little harder and had a couple mistakes. I was able to make up a lot of time on the bottom and salvage fourth place.
“It’s really fun skiing right now. I’m having a good time and the results are coming. Hopefully in Lenzerheide I can make that one last little step up to the top of the podium and then just carry all this momentum towards the World Champs in Beaver Creek. I’d like to continue on this streak, it’s really nice right now.”
On Sunday, Olympic super giant slalom gold medalist Kjetil Jansrud of Norway won the last SG before the World Cup Finals—his second win at Kvitfjell in three days including his downhill win Friday.
Recent Olympic SG silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y. needed a solid World Cup result and got one in Sunday’s SG, with a seventh place that clinched a World Cup Finals SG start for Weibrecht.
It was Weibrecht’s best World Cup finish since landing 10th at the Audi Birds of Prey SG in December of 2011 and bumped him up to 22nd in the World Cup super G standings. Only the top 25 athletes in each discipline can start at World Cup Finals.
Also starting at World Cup Finals in SG will be Bode Miller, who was 12th Sunday, and Ganong, who did not finish the race. Miller is ranked sixth and Ganong 23rd.
Women finally have a race at Crans Montana
After Saturday’s downhill at Crans Montana was canceled by fog, the World Cup women managed to finish a downhill Sunday that was delayed two-and-a-half hours due to fog. A super combined originally slated for Sunday was canceled and will not be made up.
Olympic super combined bronze medalist Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Ca. led the U.S. Ski Team with 18th Sunday in the final downhill prior to the March 10-17 World Cup Finals.
Only the top 25 athletes in each discipline qualify to start at World Cup Finals. Stacey Cook of Mammoth Mountain, Ca. finished 21st in Sunday’s race and will also have a downhill start, as will Mancuso, during the March 12 World Cup Finals downhill race.
Andrea Fischbacher, who did not make the 2014 Austrian Olympic Team, produced a stunning charge from bib No. 29 to win the race ahead of teammate Anna Fenninger, who was seeking her first-ever World Cup downhill victory.
Hoefl-Riesch finished ninth Sunday, and despite the result has all but mathematically locked the season-long downhill title with a 504-424 point advantage over Fenninger.