Hoefl-Riesch wins Olympic preview in Sochi downhill, Vonn third to clinch DH title
Though German Maria Hoefl-Riesch had the fastest time by nearly a half a second and took the win today, her friend, American Lindsey Vonn was also a winner as she sealed the season's downhill title.
Fans and athletes alike got a sneak peek at what is possible at the 2014 Olympic Games thanks to a World Cup test event in Sochi, Russia today (Feb. 18) as Hoefl-Riesch and Vonn shared the honors.
Hoefl-Riesch, the 17th racer down the brand new, 1.7-mile, Bernhard Russi designed course, was able to maintain speed through the crucial middle section of the terrain-filled course to cross the finish line 0.43 seconds ahead of second-place finisher, Elisabeth Goergl of Austria.
American overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn finished third, 0.59 seconds off the winning time, but still clinched her fifth consecutive World Cup downhill title. Vonn arrived in Sochi with a 230-point lead in the downhill standings after racking up four wins in the discipline already this season. With only two downhills remaining on this season’s World Cup schedule, Vonn is out of the reach of any other racer with a 231-point lead.
“Downhill is my favorite event and it’s always nice to wrap up a title before the end of the season, before the last races,” Vonn told reporters. “It puts a little less pressure on me.”
Vonn, who yesterday led the only full-speed training run here this week by 1.27 seconds, was rattled out of her tuck several times in the middle section of the bumpy course that received a few inches of snow overnight.
“I may have been a little cautious on the top, because the coaches were saying outside the track was really soft, so I tried to stay a little bit above the line but I think maybe that wasn’t the fastest line,” said Vonn, who also regretted straying from her usual ski setup. “I’ve gone on the same race skis all season and we decided to go on a different pair today and I think maybe that was the wrong choice.”
Overcast skies, intermittent light snow and a band of fog at the bottom of the course made the already challenging Rosa Khutor course even more difficult for the women who tried to take advantage of their only opportunity to race on the track before the opening of the 2014 Games. The fog grew thick enough to delayed the race before the 52nd of 66 starters. The last 14 racers never got a chance to start but the rest of the results were made final after more than an hour delay.
Hoefl-Riesch, the defending overall World Cup champion, marked just her second victory of the season with today’s win - the 22nd of her career.
“It’s really important,” Hoefl-Riesch told reporters. “In Whistler, two years before the Olympics I won the super-combined and I (did well) in the downhill and I won two gold medals two years later. But it’s never a guarantee, it’s just good to know you can be fast on a special track where a big event takes place.”
The women only got one real training run out of three originally planned this week. On Wednesday, winds forces officials to slow racers down as they went over two large jumps. Thursday’s training run was canceled due to eight inches of new snow overnight.
Led by Vonn, four of six American starters made their way to the top-10 list, while all six scored World Cup points.
Julia Mancuso notched her 11th top-10 result of the season (across three disciplines) today in sixth place today, 1.13 seconds off the lead.
Stacey Cook continued to build upon her most successful season to date with her fifth top-10 result of the season in ninth place today. Teammate Alice McKennis was just behind in tenth to record her best finish since taking eighth at the opening downhill of the season at Lake Louise in early December.
The last time U.S. women placed four in a World Cup top ten was March 17, 1985 at a giant slalom in Waterville Valley, NH.
Laurenne Ross finished 18th, ahead of Leanne Smith, suffering from a pulled calf muscle sustained at the last downhill in Garmisch, in 26th.
Vonn's fifth downhill globe matches the mark of the legendary Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won five straight from 1971-75. Vonn joined an elite group of only four athletes who have won five downhill titles including Moser-Proell (who has seven total), Austrian Renate Goetschl and Austrian Franz Klammer.
Vonn currently holds a 448-point lead in the overall standings.
Racing in Sochi continues tomorrow with the third and final women’s super combined of the season. Vonn holds a 70-point lead in the combined standings after winning the first race of the season. Hoefl-Riesch won the second race.
Images by Gepa
by Hank McKee
Women's World Cup downhill, Sochi, Russia, Feb. 18, 2012
1 Hoefl-Riesch, Head/Lange/Head
2 Goergl, Head/Head/Head
3 Vonn , Head/Head/Head
4 Weirather, Atomic/Tecnica/Atomic
5 Rolland, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
6 Mancuso, Voelkl/Lange/Marker
7 Merighetti, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8 Marchand-Arvier, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Cook, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
10 McKennis, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
Women's World Cup downhill, Sochi, Russia, Feb. 18, 2012. ... It is the 26th of 39 races on the women's 2012 World Cup schedule. ... the seventh of nine scheduled downhills. ... It is the first women's race held at the site of the 2014 Olympic Games.
It is the 22nd career World Cup victory for Maria Hoefl-Riesch. ... her eighth in downhill. ... It is her second win of the season, having also claimed the St Moritz combined Jan. 29.
It is the 34th career World Cup podium result for Elisabeth Goergl. ... her ninth in downhill. ... It is her fifth podium of the season and third in DH. ... She won at Bad Kleinkirchheim Jan. 7.
It is the 92nd career World Cup podium placing for Lindsey Vonn. ... her 44th in DH. ... It is her 12th podium result of the season. ... and her first third place finish of the season.
North Americans: It is the 103rd career top 10 World Cup result for Julia Mancuso. ... Her 33rd in DH. ... It is her 11th top 10 of the season. ... It is the 12th career top 10 World Cup result for Stacey Cook, 11th in DH. ... And her fifth of the season. ... It is the fourth career World Cup top 10 result for Alice McKennis all in DH and her 2nd top 10 of the season. ... Laurenne Ross matches her seventh best career Cup result. ... her third best in DH. ... It is her fifth best placing of the season matching the result from Cortina's DH Jan. 14. ... It is the 25th career scoring World Cup scoring result for Leanne Smith. ... her ninth of the season.
Standings: Vonn maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 1442-994 over Tina Maze (12th in race). ... Hoefl-Riesch is third with 956pts. ... Mancuso is sixth with 662pts. ... Michele-Marie Gagnon (DNS) is top Canadian overall in 28th with 204pts. ... Vonn leads the DH standings 590-359 over Hoefl-Riesch and with two races remaining cannot be beaten for the title. ... It is her fifth DH crown. ... Goergl is third in the DH standings with 355pts. ... Mancuso is sixth with 237 and Cook eighth with 172pts. ... Austria leads the women's Nations Cup 4264-2779 over the U.S. ... Italy is third with 2051. ... Canada is 10th with 360pts. ... US women lead in the DH category 1225-752 over Austria.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|36||29||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:53.18||48.85|
|Did not start 1st run|
|63||35079||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|26||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR|