Ross leads American squad in DH training
SCHLADMING, Austria — A day after their teammate Lindsey Vonn was helicoptered off the race hill with a season-ending knee injury and just moments after organizers cleared away the men's super G podium from the finish area, the American women took to the track for their first of three days of World Championship downhill training in Schladming, Austria on Wednesday.
In Vonn's absence, coach Alex Hoedlmoser's process for deciding which of his eligible athletes will get the start in Sunday's downhill — or rather which will not get the start — has become one racer more simple.
In downhill, the U.S. women's speed team (including Vonn) has landed six girls (that's all of them) in the top 10 this season — five in the top five — clutch performer Julia Mancuso being the exception. The team is able to start four total, which means one very deserving racer will have to sit out.
Finishing 13th and leading the American squad in Wednesday's training, Laurenne Ross proved she's a great candidate for one of those four downhill spots.
"The snow was a bit better than it was yesterday [during the super G], so that was good," said Ross. "Still, it was a little soft here and there. The top had been pretty much powder, just yesterday. All in all, it was just a little bit slower than we all had anticipated. But it feels like it's going to be a fun downhill course, especially if the snow hardens up a bit."
Stacey Cook, suspected to be the type of racer who can perform well on the Schladming course, was second for the Americans, 20th overall. Leanne Smith finished 29th, Alice McKennis 32nd, and Tuesday's super G bronze medalist, Julia Mancuso, finished 35th.
On paper, those probably aren't the results that the world's No. 1 women's speed team was hoping for in their opening training exercise. Certainly, losing a teammate to a nasty crash the day before was weighing on their minds. But they all know, even without Vonn, they're still probably the best team competing in Schladming.
"She's not only our teammate, but she's our friend," said Ross. "It's not something that's easy for us to handle. But we have to take that next step and look past that. We're still here; we're still racing. We just have to keep our focus. All of our best wishes go to Lindsey, but we're still at World Champs."
Ross had the second best result of her career earlier this season in the St. Anton downhill, fifth. And her coaches are anticipating podium results in the near future. She said the course in Schladming works for her.
"[Wednesday] was not my best run. I think most of the girls had mistakes here and there. None of us really put down a solid run," said Ross. "If I can get aggressive on this course, it could be a really good course for me."
She's planning to throw on different pair of skis Thursday, different grind, to see how they run on this unpredictable snow.
Story by Geoff Mintz
Feb. 6, 2013
|2||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:53.90|
|9||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:54.75|
|45||GASIENICA DANIEL Agnieszka||1987||POL||2:00.27|
|50||VAN BUYNDER Isabel||1991||BEL||2:01.72|
|52||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||2:02.29|
|56||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG||2:06.08|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|