Friday, March 14, 2014

Tough break for Hoefl-Riesch at World Cup Finals

Crash, injuries end World Cup overall bid

Express Staff Writer

     Wednesday was a bittersweet day for 29-year-old Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the 5-11, 172-pound German who has 27 World Cup victories and 80 podiums during her 13-year career.

     On a day when the three-time Olympic gold medalist clinched her first-ever downhill crystal globe on the 2013-14 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup, Hoefl-Riesch also saw her bid for a second overall World Cup title come to a crashing end.

     The final racer on the 2.3-kilometer (1.43-mile) Silvano Beltrametti course, Hoefl-Riesch crashed out on the steep and technical World Cup Finals downhill at Lenzerheide, Switz.

     She slid off the course, landed in the safety netting and was helicoptered off the course to a local hospital. She suffered season-ending leg, elbow and shoulder injuries.

     Austria’s Anna Fenninger, 24, who finished second to Hoefl-Riesch 504-464 in the downhill standings, clinched her first-ever World Cup overall title Thursday by finishing second to Swiss star Lara Gut, 22, in the super giant slalom.

     Fenninger (1,271 points) leads over Hoefl-Riesch (1,180) and Gut (1,056) with only two races left in the season. But the first two races at Lenzerheide were spectacular for Gut, who won her sixth and seventh World Cup races and clinched her first-ever World Cup crystal globe for winning in SG.

     The Lenzerheide speed races were also bittersweet for 31-year-old Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway. The five-time world; champion and 25-time World Cup race winner hoped to add a third overall title to the ones he won in 2007 and 2009.

     Yet Svindal, who had already clinched the downhill and super giant slalom crystal globes for 2014, came up short in points with a fifth-place downhill and 16th-place non-scoring finish in Thursday’s super giant slalom.

     It left the door open for Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, 25, who trails Svindal buy only 19 points, 1,091 to 1,072, entering the final two technical races at the World Cup Finals.

     And Hirscher is a good bet to outscore Svindal this weekend, since he currently leads American Ted Ligety 510-460 in the giant slalom standings and ranks second in slalom, only five points out of the lead

     France’s Alexis Pinturault, better known for his skill in technical events, captured Thursday’s SG—only his third SG podium—and Austria’s Olympic downhill king Matthias Mayer won Wednesday’s men’s downhill finale.


American results at the Finals

     Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H. rallied to an impressive third in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super G final Thursday, closing the men’s speed events for the 2014 season.

     Ted Ligety was fifth and Travis Ganong finished ninth.

     On Wednesday, Ligety tied for second in downhill at Lenzerheide to become only the second American man to score a top three in each of the five disciplines. Ligety joined an elite group of only eight men, including Miller, who have scored podium finishes in all five World Cup disciplines.

     The best previous downhll for Ligety also came at Lenzerheide, finishing fourth in 2007.

     Also Wednesday, Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Ca. was 10th to lead the U.S. Ski Team in the final downhill of the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season Wednesday. Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Co. had won the women's downhill title the past six consecutive seasons.

     On Thursday, Mancuso skied into the top 10 in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super G final, leading the U.S. women during the final speed event of the 2014 season.

     All three U.S. women finished in the points during the sunny super G finale, with Stacey Cook of Mammoth Mountain, Ca. finishing 11th and Leanne Smith of North Conway, N.H. 14th.

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