On five separate occasions, Lindsey Vonn has been victorious on the Oreiller Killy slope of Val d’Isere, but in recent memory, it has been a rough ride for the American in France’s Tarentaise Valley. It was in Val d’Isere last season that Vonn, challenged by a stomach virus, crashed and slid into the nets prompting a mid-season hiatus. This year, in her attempt to come back from injury, Val d’Isere may again persuade Vonn to reevaluate her plans.
“I’m going to stick to a similar plan that I was on before,” Vonn told the press after the race. “I just need to be more careful of how many races I do. I’m at risk of doing more damage to my knee and my meniscus. So I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics.”
The “OK” course is a tougher test compared to Lake Louise, the only other venue in which Vonn has raced this season. On Thursday, in the final day of downhill training, the four-time overall champ finished a promising second. On race day Saturday, Vonn looked solid enough through the first three splits, steadily skiing roughly three-tenths of a second behind the pace of eventual winner Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland, but a half-minute or so from the finish Vonn got twisted up, wound up back on one ski and missed a gate. With boyfriend Tiger Woods in the crowd looking on, she was seen in tears on the side of the hill, clearly in pain and distress, seemingly directing her frustration at the troublesome right knee.
“I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt. It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I tried to pressure the ski again and it gave out again. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately,” said Vonn.
It was a long day for the girls running bib 14 and higher — it took more than an hour-and-a-half to get through the top 30 alone. A dramatic crash by Marie Marchand-Arvier of France caused a delay on the course as she was removed from the hill by sled with a shoulder injury.
Similarly, American Stacey Cook likely caused her teammates and coaches to skip a heartbeat or two. The downhiller was skiing a late line on the top of the course, then hit a bump, which tripped her up and sent her flying into the B nets at full speed. She vigorously untangled herself and skied to the bottom.
“Yeah, that fence tried to stop me, but it couldn’t,” Cook reported after the race. “Went through it like a rhino. Watch out Zauchensee.”
Her teammate Laurenne Ross, running No. 3, crashed on the Tunnel Jump, but also bounced back up and skied to the bottom.
Alice McKennis, who shattered her kneecap into more than 30 pieces last season, deserves a lot of credit for making it back onto the World Cup race hill — and for finishing — less than a year after her injury. A last-place result of 41st was probably not the one she was hoping for, but commendable considering the circumstances.
It wasn’t all bad news for a U.S. speed team that sustained four DNFs on the day. Leanne Smith, who finished second on this track last year, skied a gutsy run despite suffering a minor fracture in her left arm in a training crash earlier in the week. A fast top section had her tied with the lead at the second split; however, risky tactics may have proved detrimental toward the bottom, where Smith lost time. She finished 1.51 seconds back in 14th, tied with Canada’s Larisa Yurkiw.
Julia Mancuso, rolling down the windows on the crucial Tunnel Jump, was the next best American in 21st place, where her results have been hovering lately. C Teamer Jackie Wiles was another U.S. finisher, unfortunately outside the points in 39th.
Ultimately, earlier racers seemed to have the slight advantage, perhaps due to the extended delays. Switzerland’s Kaufmann-Abderhalden, who picked up two top fives in Lake Louise, was dominant up top, competitive in the middle and cruised on the bottom part of the course for the win.
With a recent podium in the GS at Courchevel, it’s hard to know what to make of Tina Maze, who’s had some ups and downs this season. The reigning overall champ was fast on Saturday, aerodynamic up top and steady through the bottom. She was able to pick up time on Kaufmann-Abderhalden in the middle section of the course, where most everyone else was left in the dust.
And Saturday featured more good news if you’re an Austrian, as 21-year-old Cornelia Huetter skied an aggressive run to pick up her first career World Cup podium in just her 13th start. Norwegian Lotte Smiseth Sejersted followed suit, matching her career-best result from Lenzerheide in 2011 with another fifth-place finish.
For the ladies at the top of the standings, Tina Weirather, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Lara Gut, it was fourth, ninth and 24th place, respectively, with Gut not making any serious mistakes but simply not skiing like the tour-leader we’ve come to expect this season. The results were enough to catapult Weirather into the overall lead with 495 points; Hoefl-Riesch now sits in second with 490 points, and Gut was kicked back to third with 488 points.
See more photos from today’s race in our gallery.
by Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup downhill, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 21, 2013
Equipment - Skier, skis/boots/bindings
2 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
4 Weirather, Atomic/Tecnica/Atomic
5 Sejersted, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6 Aufdenblatten, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
7 Gisin, Dynastar/Lange/Marker
Women’s World Cup downhill, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 21, 2013. … It is the 12th of 32 racses on the women’s schedule… the fourth of nine scheduled downhills.
It is the first career World Cup win for Maria Kaufmann-Abderhalden. … Her previous best was second in DH at Lake louise Dec. 6. … It is the sixth Swiss World Cup victory this season.
It is the 65th career World Cup podium result for Tina Maze… her seventh in DH. … It is her third podium of the season and her best result of the season. … She now has podiums in three different disciplines this season.
It is the first career World Cup podium for Corneila Huetter, her previous best a seventh in DH at Lake Louise earlier this season (Dec. 6).
It is the third best career result for Larisa Yurkiw, the 17th best for Leanne Smith, and the second best of the season. … It is the ninth best of nine World Cup results at Val d’Isere for Julia Mancuso.
Tina Weirather (fourth in race) leads the World Cup overall standings 495-490 over Maria Hoefl-Riesch (ninth in race)… Lara Gut (25th in race) is third with 488pts. … Mikaela Shiffrin (did not race) leads the U.S. in the overall list in seventh with 242ppts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon leads Canada in 13th with 197pts.
Hoefl-Riesch leads the downhill standings 265-259 over Kaufmann-Abderhalden. … Weirather is third with 210pts. … Yurkiw leads Canada in 16th with 59pts. … Mancuso leads the U.S. in 26th with 36pts.
Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 2054-1381 over Switzerland. … Sweden is third with 881pt. … The U.S. is sixth with 582pts and Canada tenth with 356pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|5||37||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:48.22||12.00|
|19||10||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:49.04||22.48|
|Did not finish 1st run|