At the start of the season, the Americans set a goal to land the entire women’s speed team on the podium this winter. On Saturday in St. Anton, they checked another name off the list.
Alice McKennis, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., picked up her first career win (and first career podium) under challenging conditions on an abbreviated downhill course. The visibility was excellent throughout the race, but not before nearly two feet of fresh snow had coated the track over night, causing organizers to shorten the course by eight gates to the super G start. On the plus side, the fresh snow may have alleviated some of the bumps that were giving racers a hard time during training on Thursday. (Friday’s race training was cancelled and the girls skied powder instead.)
McKennis, whose previous best result was seventh at Schladming, was in comeback mode due to injury last season. On Saturday, she finished with a time of 1 minute, 14.62 seconds.
“Last season was really hard for me, I didn’t get any training. I raced last season and it was kind of up and down,” said McKennis after the win. “This year, coming in, I finally felt strong and back to myself again, so it’s really rewarding to be up here.”
Asked why she won this prestigious race, McKennis said with a laugh, “I don’t know. I think I just had one of the best runs I’ve ever had … relaxed and confident. I had a decent training run. I’ve never been to [St. Anton] before, but I knew what I had to do and the places you had to attack and be strong. It’s a really tough course that doesn’t let up at all.”
McKennis, who ran fourth, had plenty of time to sit in the leader’s box and daydream about that first win as big name after big name crossed the finish line. McKennis was not terribly fast on the upper part of the course, indicated by most of the field beating her at that first split. But she lit it up on the lower, steeper, more technical part of the course, where the race was won or lost Saturday. She absorbed a small bobble coming into the crucial Icefall section, but it didn’t cost her much time.
Her biggest threat of the day came from Daniela Merighetti, who ran 18 racers later and ultimately finished second. Fast up top, losing significant time in the midsection and charging toward the finish, it was a wild, unpredictable ride for the Italian, but .07 seconds slower than McKennis.
Tina Maze had by far her best downhill result of the season — her previous best was 10th in Lake Louise. She finished fourth, just three-tenths back, to advance her lead in the Overall standings, while Austrian Anna Fenninger rounded out the podium in third.
Meanwhile, the American who many expected would light up the hill after a four-week break from racing, Lindsey Vonn, who won this race the last time it was held in 2007, was unspectacular in her first competition of 2013.
Vonn looked strong out of the start, but stood tall where others were aerodynamic and skied defensively through most of the tricky parts of the course. Pushing it wide coming out of Icefall, Vonn lost more time toward the bottom, as she ultimately skied to a sixth-place result.
As for that team goal to land every member of the speed team on the podium this season, there’s only one left. And if Saturday is any indication, she could be well on her way. Running the No. 7 bib, Laurenne Ross logged her best career downhill result, fifth. It’s just her third career top 10 and second best result overall (she finished fourth in a super G at Tarvisio in 2011).
As for the rest of the Americans, they finished three more in the top 25: Leanne Smith (T15), Julia Mancuso (T15) and Stacey Cook (22).
This story is being updated
By Geoff Mintz
Photos by GEPA
by Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup Downhill, St Anton, Austria, Jan. 12, 2013
1 McKennis, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Merighetti, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3 Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
4 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
5 Ross, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6 Gisin, Dynastar/Lange/Marker
6 Vonn, Head/Head/Head
8 Rolland, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Weirather, Atomic/Tecnica/Atomic
10 Huetter, Voelkl/Tecnica/Marker
Women’s World Cup Downhill, St Anton, Austria, Jan. 12, 2013. … It is the 36th race of the 2012-13 World Cup schedule. … the 19th of the women’s 43 race schedule, the 18th held. … The fourth of eight scheduled downhills. … the first since Dec. 14. … It is the 38th Cup event at St Anton. … the 13th downhill but the first since 2007. … shortened course.
It is the first career World Cup win for Alice McKennis. … her previous best had been seventh at Schladming last March. … It is her third scoring finish of the season having previously been eighth at Val d’Isere and 11th at Lake Louise, both in downhill. … It is the 11th US win of the season. … She is the fifth American to claim a win this season. … It is the 252nd US Cup win.
It is the third career World Cup podium for Daniela Merighetti… her second in downhill having won Cortina last season. … She was 22nd in her last DH at St Anton. … It is her fifth score of the season and third in DH… Her first podium of the season.
It is the thirteenth career Cup podium for Anna Fenninger. … Her second in downhill, the other also a third scored at Altenmarkt Jan. 8, 2011. … It is her fourth podium of the season but first in DH. … In 10 completed races she has scored nine top 10 finishes.
It is the second best career result for Laurenne Ross bettered only by a fourth in super G at Tavisio March 6, 2011. … It is her best finish of the season by six placings. … It is the 136th top six finish for Lindsey Vonn. … 58th top six in downhill. … It is her seventh scoring finish of the season. … It is the fifth time Leanne Smith has finished 15th in a Cup race. … It matches her third best placing of the season. … It is the 158th top 15 World Cup career result for Julia Mancuso. … her 13th score of the season. … It is the best DH finish at St Anton for Stacey Cook. … her eighth score of the season.
Tina Maze (fourth in race) leads the World Cup overall standings 1189-699 over Maria Hoefl-Riesch (19th in race). … Kathrin Zettel (did not race) is third overall with 597pts. … Lindsey Vonn is fifth with 454pts, Mikaela Shiffrin seventh with 426pts and Julia Mancuso eighth with 407pts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon (did not race) leads Canada in 18th place with 225pts. … Vonn maintains the lead of the downhill standings 240-195 over Stacey Cook. … Merighetti is third with 161pts and McKennis fourth with 156pts. … Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 2645-1960 over the US with Germany third at 1575. … Canada is ninth with 491pts. … The US women lead the downhill standings 893-596 over Switzerland.
St. Anton (AUT)
FIS World Cup
Jan. 12, 2013
|24||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:15.80|
|25||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:15.96|
|30||AGERER Lisa Magdalena||1991||ITA||1:16.30|
|56||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG||1:19.73|
|Did not finish 1st run|