Vonn, Mancuso, Smith, Ross to start super G World Champs
SCHLADMING, Austria — There's a ladies' super G championship on the schedule in Schladming Tuesday, but Mother Nature needs to start cooperating.
The U.S. Ski Team had an opportunity to meet the press Sunday evening in the heart of the snowy village. Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Leanne Smith were joined by Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser to discuss the state of the world's No. 1 women's speed team heading into the championship week.
When it comes to selecting the U.S. speed team, Hoedlmoser faces a problem that every other coach on the circuit would like to have: six girls in the top five this season, five on the podium. Only four can race in each event.
The super G starters were selected Monday morning: Vonn, Mancuso, Smith and Laurenne Ross will be kicking out in the opening contest, scheduled for Tuesday.
"We have six girls (on the speed team) that definitely have a chance to medal here," said Hoedlmoser. "It's going to be a very difficult decision. All of them have proved that they can be out there. It's too bad we just have four spots, but that's the way it is. Usually, it's the Austrian team that's confronted with a situation like that. … "[For the downhill], We're going to look at the training runs, and we're probably going to make a decision after the second training run."
Schladming has been good to Vonn, who said she's healthier, stronger and better rested than she's ever been heading into a major event. At last season's World Cup Final, the 2012 Overall champ won the downhill, picked up top 10s in super G and slalom and surpassed the women's all-time single season point record.
"World Cup Finals went pretty well for me here in Schladming," said Vonn. "I like the track. It's really good here. It's a little bit on the flat side and hopefully it stops snowing so the track won't be too slow. But it in general, it's a good hill. The GS course is definitely a lot steeper here than it is in Maribor, so I'm not expecting a whole lot in the GS. But the downhill and super G, I feel really strong in those two events and I look forward to trying to get a medal."
There's been some chatter over the emerging rivalry between likely 2013 Overall winner Tina Maze and last season's champ Vonn, who downplayed the reported friction.
"I don't really think there's been a rivalry between Tina and I," Vonn responded. "She's had an incredible season. For me, considering I had some intestinal problems, I've been skiing really well. I have six wins this year. I don't really compare myself to her because I took that break and missed a lot of races."
Asked if Tiger Woods, widely speculated to be romantically involved with the Olympic Gold medalist, would be attending the Championships this week, Vonn, somewhat annoyed by the question, said, "I don't know. You should ask him. … I have no idea."
Mancuso, like many other contenders on the circuit, opted to skip last week's city event in Moscow, which she won in 2012, to prepare for the World Championships ahead. Super G has been her best event this season — four out of her top five results (excluding the Munich CE).
"It was a little sad to not go back to Moscow," said Mancuso. "Our team was training in Italy this past week, which I guess was a good decision because it's been kind of crazy weather (in Austria). It's been really fun hanging out with the young girls and training and just getting prepared."
Anyone who's followed Mancuso's career knows she's got a knack for rising to the occasion at big races.
"I really enjoy the championship races. I don't really feel extra pressure. I just want to go fast," said Mancuso.
For Granite Stater Leanne Smith, who cracked onto the downhill podium for the first time this season — twice — there is a little added pressure heading into this year's Championships. Smith hasn't quite had the super G results she has hoped for this season, but she's optimistic that could change pretty soon.
"Whether it's in the gym in the summertime or training or race day, each day we put in the best effort that we can, working really hard. We like being around each other," said Smith. "Obviously, being around Lindsey and Julia has been really beneficial for our training. … It's just an all-around good effort."
Story by Geoff Mintz