MERIBEL, France – Lindsey Vonn and Kjetil Jansrud both came into the World Cup Finals with a slim lead in the downhill standings. Jansrud led Hannes Reichelt by a mere 20 points and Vonn led Anna Fenninger by 35. On the opening day of events, they both came through in dominating fashion, leaving nothing out on the hill to each take the victory and their respective downhill crystal globes.
The morning started with blue skies and warm temperatures with the men leading off. First out of the start was the oldest man in the race, Didier Defago, who was competing in the final downhill of his career. He announced early in the season that this would be his last season on the World Cup tour. He laid down a blistering run, skiing smoothly and precisely over the tricky rolls and looking for his tuck as often as possible on the mellow downhill track. His run would be the one to beat and held up through the first 17 athletes.
“When I came here this weekend it was my goal to ski and make it to the podium so it’s a great feeling,” said Defago. “I’m very happy and now I just enjoy this day and all the emotions that go with it. I have a lot of friends and family here so it’s a very nice finish for me.”
Then Jansrud, running bib 18, took to the course. After trailing slightly at the first interval, the Attacking Viking (who needed to finish ahead of Reichelt to guarantee his first downhill crystal globe) started to push both the line and the limit of the course. He was the only one to match the aggression and precision of Defago and was able to ski with reckless abandon to steal the win away from the Swiss by 0.24 seconds. Georg Streitberger rounded out the podium in third, 0.31 seconds behind.
The usually calm and relaxed Jansrud admitted to feeling nerves in the start. Despite not having any idea how Reichelt had done running just two before him, Jansrud stuck to his plan and attacked. Reichelt skied a clean, but conservative, run and skiing bib 16 came down into sixth with 10 athletes still to go. All Jansrud had to do was finish 10th or better, but he had his mind set only on one thing — winning the race.
“I feel like I’m a calm guy when it comes to racing, I’m not letting myself get very stressed out, and I haven’t been all season, even though the pressure has been there,” admitted Jansrud. “But today is probably the first day of the season where I had to actually really work with myself before the start because obviously I knew 20 points to Hannes who was actually in really good shape … it was a little (lead).”
It’s been an exciting day learning to control my energy and control my mindset so I could go out there and attack … if I wasn’t really nervous I was excited and my heart was beating faster than normal for sure,” said Jansrud.
It was a great end to the speed season for the Norwegian team who lost their star, Aksel Lund Svindal, before the season started to an Achilles injury. Jansrud filled his shoes and then some, winning both the downhill and super G globes (locking up before the final race tomorrow) and he currently trails Marcel Hirscher in the overall standings by 64 points. A victory in the super G tomorrow could give him a lead heading into the technical events on Saturday and Sunday. He knows the overall is a stretch, but doesn’t want to give up without a fight.
“When it comes to the overall I think if I win tomorrow Marcel can still win. It’s in his control in the giant slalom and slalom so you know for me the overall is not decided and I’m going to fight to the end. But I also think it’s not very sportsmanlike for me to wish him to fail so I can win,” said Jansrud. “So for me I am going to focus on tomorrow and ski as fast as I can and we will see what happens … I don’t want to speculate too much over the overall, I will just take it one day at a time.”
For Defago, he will leave the tour on a high note after almost pulling out the win in his final downhill race. He led the way from bib 1, and had one close call with Streitberger making up just over two-tenths on the final pitch to finish just behind in second at the time, seven hundredths back. But Jansrud was not to be denied and joked that he felt like he need to apologize in the finish for “ruining the retirement party.” But Defago will leave much more than a list of accomplishments behind. He will also leave as one of the most liked and humble men on tour.
“I remember when I started doing World Cups when I was a little kid, Didier was one of the guys in giant slalom who was always so easy to talk with and was always laughing and smiling – one of the good old legends in the game. It is sad to see him leave, but it’s also understandable with his kids and his family now calling it quits,” said Jansrud of Defago. “But for me he will always be a legend, not just speaking of his merits: Olympic gold, he won Wengen, he won Kitzbuhel, he won all the big stuff, but half of being a legend is how you treat other people and other competitors and how you behave, and Didier is one of the best guys around.”
Steven Nyman led the way for the Americans, finishing just off the podium in fourth. It has been a consistent season for Nyman who found himself sixth in the downhill standing, the best overall finish of his career. He ended the season with four top-5 results, including a win in Val Gardena in December and a third in Beaver Creek, plus a fourth at World Championships. Marco Sullivan, after being left off from the starting four at the World Championships, has rebounded in the past few weeks and ended today in eighth to improve his overall downhill standings to 19th. It was strong season for the entire men’s speed team, which included a win by Travis Ganong (20th today) earlier in the season, as well as a silver medal at World Championships.
“Consistency was my main goal, and I was pretty consistent this year – a couple fourths, fifth, first, third – can’t complain. So I’m pretty happy with my season,” said Nyman. “I had a couple races where I knew I could do really well, the weather was tough, but to end like this I’m really happy with it and hopefully I can carry it into next year. I started outside the 30 this year, so my main goal is to get in with the top guys and really push for a title next year. I think I set myself up for that.”
By the time the women took to the hill about 30 minutes after the men’s race ended, the temperatures has risen and the snow began to soften. But that was no problem for Vonn, who used her superior gliding skills to find her confidence and aggression to take the win: the 66th of her career, her seventh downhill title, and 18th crystal globe.
“My goal was to get the downhill title, but it’s a lot easier said than done. After being away from the World Cup for two years, it’s tough and I fought my way back. It’s just incredible,” said Vonn.
Going into the morning the lead for Vonn was only 35 points over Fenninger, but Fenninger reportedly took a spill in warm-up yesterday and was nursing a sore knee. She ran bib 16 — right in front of Vonn, but never looked like her confident, aggressive self that all have become accustomed to seeing during this second half of the season. She came through the finish over sixth-tenths behind then-leader Nicole Hosp and immediately all attention turned back to the start.
Vonn pushed out hard and by the first interval had a lead that she would never relinquish. The course was open and straightforward, the perfect combination for her. She stayed in her tuck in areas where other athletes were opening up and built on her advantage at each split time. By the time she crossed the line with a virtually flawless run, there was no doubt who the winner of the day would be. She took the lead away from Hosp by 0.30 seconds, and more importantly, finished ahead of Fenninger to secure her seventh downhill title.
“It’s incredible after being out with two knee operations it is just amazing to be sitting where I am today,” said Vonn after the win. “I’m so proud and happy and I really have to thank the people that supported me and got me back to where I am now.”
Hosp took an early lead running bib 10 and skied cleanly and smoothly on the soft snow to come down with a lead that would hold through Vonn.
Then Elisabeth Goergl made things interesting running bib 20 as she snuck in between Vonn and Hosp to finish second overall, 0.24 seconds behind. With her run, she bumped Tina Maze off of the podium, which helped to keep Fenninger’s lead in the overall standings in tact. Fenninger led coming into the day by 30 points. After a fourth-place finish by Maze and an eighth by Fenninger, that lead has dwindled down to 12 points. It is sure to set up an exciting finish to the season for both overall titles on the men’s and women’s tour.
For Vonn, the win on the day that secured the title was a fitting end to her comeback from multiple knee surgeries. At the start of the season no one knew how she would respond after being away from the sport for close to two years. But after the second downhill race, which she won, she answered those questions quickly and never looked back. Tomorrow she will attempt to win her 19th crystal globe in the super G. She leads the standing by eight points over Fenninger.
“Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity, and I’m only eight points ahead in the super G standings. So I definitely have to have a good result tomorrow, but I’m really optimistic,” said Vonn of the super G .“This is a good track for me; I really like the snow conditions, it’s a little bit soft, but I still like them. Yeah, I’m going to give it my all just like I did today, and hopefully I can come out on top.”
The Americans had a strong end to the downhill season with Alice McKennis finishing 12th and Stacey Cook 14th. Laurenne Ross took a scary spill over one of the rolls, but was able to ski away unscathed. Julia Mancuso was notably absent, missing World Cup Finals for the first time in her career with chronic hip pain that has bothered her since January.
The men and women resume racing tomorrow with the men’s super G starting at 9:30 a.m. CET and the women following at 11:00 a.m. CET.
See more photos from this race here.
By Hank McKee
- Jansrud, Head/Head/Head
- Defago, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
- Streitberger, Head/Head/Head
- Nyman, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Fayed, Head/Head/Head
- Franz, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Kueng, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Sullivan, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Feuz, Head/Head/Head
- Reichelt, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
Men’s World Cup downhill, Meribel, France, March 18, 2015:
- It is the first of four men’s races at World Cup Finals. … Invitation event, by rule only first 15 finishers will score points. … It is the 35th of 38 races on the men’s World Cup calendar, the 10th of 10 downhills. … It is the ninth World Cup race hosted at Meribel, the 1992 Olympic site for women’s alpine events.
- It is the 10th career World Cup win for Kjetil Jansrud … his seventh of the season. … It is his fifth career downhill win. … The winning margin is .24 of a second. … Top 12 finishers are within the same second.
- It is the 16th career World Cup podium placing for Didier Defago. … His fifth in downhill. … It is his first podium of the season. … He had scored two ninths and two tenths in downhill previously this season. … His last World Cup DH podium came at Bormio Dec. 29, 2012.
- It is the tenth career World Cup podium for Georg Streitberger … his third in downhill. … It is his second podium of the season, he was also third in SG at Kitzbuehel Jan. 23.
- It is the eighth top four World Cup finish for Steven Nyman, all in DH. … It is his fourth top four of the season including a fourth at World Championships. … It is the 16th top 10 career World Cup placing for Marco Sullivan. … His third of the season after a fifth at Lake Louise Nov. 29 and a sixth at Garmisch Feb. 28.
- Marcel Hirscher (did not race) holds the lead of the World Cup overall standings 1248-1184 over Kjetil Jansrud. … Alexis Pinturault (did not race) is third overall at 898pts. … Ted Ligety is the top American overall in 11th place with 520pts. … Manuel Osborne-Paradis (DNF in race) is the top Canadian in 31st with 246pts.
- Jansrud wins the downhill title 605-511 over Hannes Reichelt (tenth in race). … Guillermo Fayed finishes third in downhill with 389pts. … Nyman is the top American in DH at sixth with 324pts… Travis Ganong (20th is race) is 11th in the final DH standings with 240pts. … Osborne-Paradis tops Canadians in 14th with 186pts. … Other North Americans include Marco Sullivan 19th place 153pts; Benjamin Thomsen 25th place 81pts; Jared Goldberg 36th place 37pts; Jan Hudec 41st place 26pts; Wiley Maple 46th place 23pts; Andrew Weibrecht 46h place 23pts and Ted Ligety 58th place 3pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup standings 5316-3438 over France with Italy third at 3095pts. … The U.S. is seventh at 1854pts and Canada ninth at 655pts.
- Vonn, Head/Head/Head
- Goergl, Head/Head/Head
- Hosp, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Fanchini, Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Ruiz Castillo, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Schmidhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
- Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Weirather, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
Women’s World Cup downhill, Meribel, France, March 18, 2015:
- It is the 31st of 34 races on the women’s calendar … the eighth of eight downhills. … It is the first women’s race of World Cup Finals, an invitation only World Cup race. … By rule, just the top 15 finishers receive points.
- It is the tenth World Cup race hosted by Meribel, also the 1992 women’s Olympic site.
- It is the 66th career World Cup win for Lindsey Vonn. … Her 33rd in downhill, three shy of the discipline record. … It is her third win of the season. … The winning margin is .24 of a second. … Top eight skiers are within the same second. … It is the 285th U.S. World Cup win.
- It is the 42nd career World Cup podium placing for Elisabeth Goergl … her 14th in DH. … And her fourth podium of the season. … She placed second three times this season.
- It is the 57th career World Cup podium for Nicole Hosp, but her first in downhill. … It is her fourth podium of the season.
- It is the 13th time Alice McKennis has finished among the top dozen in a World Cup race. … the second time this season. … It is the 100th time Stacey Cook has scored in a World Cup race, the 33rd time among the top 14.
- Anna Fenninger (eighth in race) holds the lead of the World Cup overall standings 1373-1361 over Tina Maze (fourth in race). … Lindsey Vonn moves to third with 942pts. … Mikaela Shiffrin (did not race) is fourth with 900pts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon leads the Canadians in 25th place with 279pts.
- Vonn wins the downhill title 502-399 over Fenninger. … Maze is third with 356pts. … It is Vonn’s 14th discipline crown, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 15. … It is Vonn’s seventh DH title, matching Annamarie Moser Proell’s standard.
- Other North American finishers in the downhill standings include: Larisa Yurkiw (did not start race) 10th with 202pts; Laurenne Ross (DNF in race) 11th with 191pts; Julia Mancuso 13th wth 163pts; Stacey Cook 14th with 156pts; Alice McKennis 12th with 104pts’ Jacqueline Wiles 40th with 10pts.
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