Though it was abbreviated course, there was no shortage of action in Val D’Isere Friday, as Lara Gut recorded her first career win in downhill, American Leanne Smith her first podium in any discipline and Lindsey Vonn her first DH crash since 2007.
And it was huge day for the rest of the American ladies, as they packed four into the top ten — Smith in second, Mancuso seventh, McKennis eighth and Cook tenth.
With the lower start, many of the high-flying elements were removed from the course due to poor visibility and crosswinds.
Gut, running the No. 2 bib, seemed better committed to her edges than the other girls. With good aerodynamics, she was able to carry more speed across the flats, which proved difficult for many racers. It’s a good hill for Gut, who’s recorded a couple downhill podiums in Val D’Isere, but never before a win in the event.
Wearing bib No. 3, Granite Stater Smith by no means skied a perfect run, getting a little twisted up before the first intermediate resulting in chattery skiing on the upper part of the course. But she found speed toward the bottom, picking up time at the subsequent splits and through the finish.
And there was more good news for the Americans, as Alice McKennis, despite some chattery skiing up top, matched her best career result, seventh, which she also earned in the downhill at Schladming last season.
The drama came pretty early in the run for Vonn, who went into the race undefeated in downhill this season. No more than ten seconds into the course, she lost her edges on a tough left-footer and slid on her hip out of the course. It took three levels of B net to ultimately bring her to a halt, and she didn’t move for several seconds. But it appeared to be a clean fall, and she was able to ski off the hill.
In an interview with People Magazine published Thursday, the Olympic gold medalist disclosed that she’s been suffering from depression for many years and currently takes an anti-depressant to help manage her symptoms. But in that same report, Vonn said she’s currently happier than she’s been in a long time.
Meanwhile, World Cup Overall leader and last season’s runner-up, Tina Maze, skied a very smooth, clean run, but didn’t appear to have the weight to manage speed across the lower, flatter portions of the course. She was all smiles in 11th place, picking up World Cup points in the only discipline in which she hasn’t yet been a top-five threat this season.
For Julia Mancuso, who was second in the first day of downhill training this week, it must have been an unnerving start, as she ran just after the course delay caused by Vonn’s crash. She attacked well on the upper part of the course, but lost time toward the bottom.
After clocking a 0.01-second advantage at the first split, Stacey Cook appeared disappointed in the finish coral, but a top 10 result nonetheless for the Lake Louise podium finisher.
And unfortunately, it was another trip into the fences for American Laurenne Ross, who just more than a year ago was airlifted off Lake Louise with facial lacerations from a similar crash. Ross nearly managed to avoid the nets, but a patch of soft snow sent her very awkwardly into them, skis first. She was able to ski off. —Geoff Mintz
by Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup downhill, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 14, 2012
1 Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
2 Smith, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
3 Kamer, Stoeckli/Tecnica/Marker
4 Marchand-Arvier, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
5 Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
6 Aufdenblatten, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
7 Mancuso, Head/Head/Head
8 McKennis, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9 Rolland, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
10 Cook, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
Women’s World Cup Downhill, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 14, 2012. … It is the 20th race of the 73 race 2012-13 World Cup schedule. … The 11th of 43 races for women and the third of eight scheduled downhills. … It is the third of four Cup races scheduled for Val d’Isere, the first of two for women. … It is the 159th Cup race held, at least in part, at Val d’Isere. … the 61st downhill. … Due to wind the race is held from a lowered start.
It is the third career World Cup win for Lara Gut, her first in downhill. … It is her fourth podium result at Val d’Isere, including a pair of silver medals (DH and CMB) at the 2009 World Championships. … It is her first podium finish of the season, but she has been fourth twice, fifth once and sixth once.
It is a career best World Cup result for Leanne Smith, her previous best a fifth in super G at Schladming last March. … It is her fourth score of the season and the 14th podium result for the US this season.
It is the fifth career World Cup podium for Nadja Kamer without a victory. … All have come in DH. … It is her second DH podium at Val d’Isere, the other coming Dec. 18, 2010. … It is her third score of the season, all in downhill. … She combineds with Gut to provide the first two podiums of the season for Switzerland.
It is the 115th World Cup top 10 for Julia Mancuso and her fifth of the season. … It is her fifth top 10 scored at Val d’Isere. … She won the DH at the site Dec. 19, 2006. … Alice McKennis matches her second best career Cup score. … She was one placing better at Schladming last March. … It is her second score of the season. … It is the 15th career Cup top 10 finish for Stacey Cook. … her first scored at Val d’Isere. … Her previous best at the site was 27th in combined Dec. 18, 2009. … It is her fifth score of the season.
Tina Maze (11th in race) leads the World Cup overall standings 699-463 over Maria Hoefl-Riesch (12th race). … Lindsey Vonn (DNF in race) is third with 414pts. … Mancuso ranks sixth and Cook tenth. … Marie-Michele Gagnon (did not race) is the top Canadian in 11th with 164pts. … Vonn leads the downhill standings 200-186 over Cook. … Gut moves to third with 124pts. … Mancuso is eighth and Leanne Smith tenth. … Austria leads the Women’s Nations Cup 1528-1291 over the US. … Germany is third with 1029 and Canada ninth with 233pts.
Result — Women’s Downhill Val D’Isere Friday
|21||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:21.36|
|31||AGERER Lisa Magdalena||1991||ITA||1:22.45|
|32||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:22.67|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|