BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – In front of the Beaver Creek stadium and surrounding hillsides packed with fans, Tina Maze again demonstrated why she has been the woman to beat over the past three years as she tucked out the win over Tuesday’s super G champion Anna Fenninger. This time around, Maze ended up on the right side of the clock besting Fenninger by a mere 0.02 seconds. Lara Gut rounded out the podium finishing third, 0.34 seconds behind.
“It’s a nice battle between Anna and I, it makes it fun for us,” Maze said. “The course, even though it was warm, was perfect. The snow was hard and it made it really nice to ski here today.”
The top three were in a league of their own today, demonstrating their strong technical abilities on the demanding Raptor course. Fourth through seventh places were separated by only five hundredths of a second but trailed Maze by more than a second and could not come close to matching her clean, smooth skiing from top to bottom.
“This race has a special meaning to me because I’ve had a great season. I started with a win in Lake Louise in downhill and Lindsey was getting stronger and stronger and she was hard to beat. … I know World Championships are the most important race of the season, and I really came here with a big wish to win especially in downhill,” said Maze. “I realized yesterday I really like the hill. And it wasn’t easy for me to understand it at first but when I understood the timing of the turns and where you should start the turn then it was much easier for me.”
Maze has been a threat, though inconsistently, in all five disciplines over the course of the past several seasons. On any given day, it is a complete unknown which Maze will show up to the hill. After her record breaking 2013 campaign, she is still capable of winning in every discipline but remains an outside favorite, despite leading the overall standings. One day she takes a victory and looks unbeatable only to finish 20th the next. There has been no doubt when it comes to championship events that Maze brings out her best, and these World Championships have been no different. Two races – two medals with arguably her three strongest events left to contest.
“I was at the start watching Anna skiing down and knew she would be the one to beat. So I saw her having a really good run and I knew if I came down winning that it’s a good sign. I didn’t know what to expect from Lindsey since she didn’t have a good training yesterday, but still I knew Anna would be the one to beat today,” said Maze. “I just have to go day by day, turn by turn and discipline to discipline. The timing is important that I get it and then I can, for sure, be a contender for each event so hopefully I can do that.”
The only other athlete in the field who could match the technical prowess of Maze was Fenninger, who almost pulled out her second straight win with what looked to be a flawless run. She was the first out of the gate of the top seven racers in the world with bib 16 and arced through the bumpy traverse turns that gave the previous 15 racers significant trouble. She came through the finish to the roars of the crowd with an impressive 1.01-second advantage that looked nearly impossible to beat.
“Today I was so close to the win. Tina was better today. She had a really good run,” admitted Fenninger. “I’m really happy that I can take the silver medal because in the downhill it was always so difficult for me at the World Champs and also at the Olympics that I can show my skiing. Today was perfect.”
Fenninger’s time held up handily through the next two competitors until Gut took to the course. After winning both events on the Raptor last season, many viewed Gut as the one to beat. But after a disappointing super G race where she looked to have trouble with the turns that normally suit her style, it was unknown if she would be up to the task today. She hung close with Fenninger in the technical turns that took most racers out of contention and was able to carry her small frame across the flat, tucking turns to finish within reach, 0.32 behind Fenninger.
“I was happy with a medal. It’s always good to have a medal. But, it’s always sad when you’re not satisfied with your skiing. Sochi was the same and today is the same. I’m happy to have a bronze medal, I’m just disappointed that I didn’t bring everything that I could. I made a stupid mistake on the top,” said Gut. “I just have to learn from that. I have to work harder, and I have to get tougher, and I hope one day I will be able to do what Tina or Anna are doing, just to bring everything at the right moment.”
Both Fenninger and Gut knew the race was far from over, with Maze and hometown favorite Lindsey Vonn still to come in bibs 21 and 22, respectively. Maze kicked out of the start looking confident and out-skied Fenninger in her wheelhouse — the technical turns — and held a four-tenths advantage through the third interval. A small bobble entering the final flat cut time out of her lead, but she was able to hold on to take the tight win.
“I was sure I wasn’t able to win because I made a mistake coming on to the flat before the last jump, and I thought that this wasn’t going to be enough,” said Maze. “I made it so I am happy and of course without a mistake I’d be even happier but its going well so it was a perfect run for me.”
Vonn was the final racer who could spoil the party for Maze. She was unable to match the solid, clean skiing of Maze and Fenninger in the turns and by the time she hit the gliding section of the course already trailed by 1.20 seconds. She was able to make up a few tenths with her gliding skills and salvaged a fifth-place result.
“I’m happy. Honestly, I did the best that I could. I fought my whole way down. I was so focused. I visualized the course 1,000 times. I did everything I normally do and more, and it just wasn’t a great run. It was a good run, a top-5 worthy run, but it wasn’t a good enough run for a medal today,” admitted Vonn. “I’m going home happy because I skied my best, my family’s here, amazing atmosphere, it’s sunny, and there’s not a lot to be sad about. I wish I could have done more, of course, but I did my best.”
The win is the third gold for Maze in a World Championship event and is her eighth medal overall. She still has three more events to add to that total. Fenninger added her second medal of these championships and fourth of her career after a disappointing, pressure-filled World Championships in Schladming two years ago.
“It’s really exciting that we can take three medals for our team. We are a strong team, and we skied our best. It’s a really good start. Yes, it’s easier to ski here when there is not so much media like in Schladming two years ago,” said Fenninger. “It’s a normal race when you’re on the World Cup tour, it’s normal like that. Schladming it was the most important race in our life. That makes a lot of pressure and very hard to show the best skiing. It’s easier here for us.”
Overall, the results were not the ones the celebrated American speed team hoped for on their home hill and in the event where they swept the podium at Lake Louise earlier this season. Julia Mancuso, Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook finished 16th, 17th, and 19th, respectively. All three had trouble with the line and bumps on the course and were not able to recover fast enough to stay in contention.
“In the middle there’s a lot of forces. It never really lets up. There’s no flat sections. If you miss your line, as you can see just going a little too tight somewhere, it’s hard to carry your speed,” said Mancuso. “World Championships are about the medals, and everyone’s going out and doing their best and sometimes it’s not your best run … With the experience, I could have gone back and done it differently, but we all seemed to have tried to execute our plan and it didn’t work out. So you just kind of move on to the next race and keep your head high.”
The women’s World Championship events continue on Monday with the alpine combined, in which Vonn, Mancuso, and Ross all plan to participate. The fourth U.S. starting spot in the event is yet to be determined.
“I wish I could have done something better for the public and my family, but I still have two more chances: the super combined and the GS,” said Vonn. “Although my chances of doing something there are slim, I will definitely be giving 110 percent effort. Hopefully I can make a miracle happen.”
See more photos from the race here.
By Hank McKee
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
- Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Schmidhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Vonn, Head/Head/Head
- Goergl, Head/Head/Head
- Jnglin-Kamer, Stoeckli/Tecnica/Marker
- Merighetti, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Suter, Dynastar/Lange/Atomic
- Rebensburg, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
Women’s World Championship downhill, Beaver Creek, Colo., Feb. 6, 2015:
- It is the third race of the 2015 World Ski Championships … the second women’s race. … It is the 67th World Championship downhill and the 288th world title race (event). … Marion Rolland is the defending champion. … Lindsey Vonn leads the World Cup downhill standings. … Lara Gut won the only World Cup downhill held on the new Raptor course in Nov. 2013.
- It is the third World Championship gold medal in three different disciplines for Tina Maze … her eighth title medal. … Her previous gold medals came in GS at Garmisch in 2011 and in super G at Schladming 2013. … It is her second medal of these championships in two races having gained silver in the super G. Winning margin is .02. … Top three are within the same second. … Top 16 within two seconds.
- It is the fourth World Championship medal for Anna Fenninger, in four disciplines, and her second medal at Beaver Creek having earned gold in the super G.
- It is the fourth career World Championship medal for Lara Gut … her first bronze as the previous three were all silver.
- It is the fifth best of six World Championship finishes for Lindsey Vonn. … It is a career best World Championship placing for Larisa Yurkiw. … Julia Mancuso matches her 18th best World Championship result. … It is the fifth best of seven World Championship finishes for Laurenne Ross. … The seventh best of nine World Championship finishes for Stacey Cook.
- Medal count: Austria two gold, one silver; Slovenia one gold, one silver; Canada one silver; U.S., France, and Switzerland one bronze.
|23||2||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:48.27||+2.38||28.10|
|27||30||426043||TVIBERG Maria Therese||1994||NOR||1:48.78||+2.89||34.12|
|34||36||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:53.18||+7.29||86.06|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|28||196460||JAY MARCHAND-ARVIER Marie||1985||FRA|