For the U.S. women’s speed team, there is not much good news to report from the first of two downhills in Lake Louise. On a track where last season the Americans earned six of nine possible podium spots, today they recorded four of the five slowest times after 30 racers.
The one bright spot for the squad was B Teamer Julia Ford earning her career best World Cup result and leading the team in 21st. Julia Mancuso was the only other American in the top 30; she finished 26th. C Teamer Jackie Wiles was also able to turn strong training into a positive result; she just missed out on World Cup points in 32nd position.
“It feels really good after my health issues … to be back out here and charging in a healthy state,” said Ford. “Today was a step, but I want to go faster.”
Ford said her training run Thursday, in which she finished ninth, gave her some confidence heading into the race: “It was nice to throw one in there so you know you’re capable of doing it. Today was good, but I’m looking forward to being even closer to that top group.”
Maria Hoefl-Riesch was in a league of her own, beating out runner-up Maria Kaufmann-Abderhalden by seven-tenths of a second. Italy’s Elena Fanchini rounded out the podium, 1.20 seconds back.
Most everyone in the field enjoyed a one-spot bump after Tina Weirather, who finished fifth, was ultimately disqualified for use of illegal arm guards, a new rule this season.
Canadian Larisa Yurkiw, who has struggled to score World Cup points since an injury in 2009, failed to make criteria and was dropped from her national team last spring. She has since self-funded her journey on the World Cup circuit with an eye on qualifying for Sochi. After a breakthrough weekend in Beaver Creek where she placed 15th in the super G, today she charged hard from bib 51 into 7th, securing half of the Olympic qualifying criteria for her country.
“I’m having a really good time, and I’m surrounded by people who believe in me and it’s making me feel full and confident going into the start more than ever before. It’s something I’ve strived for in the past, but we’re just building and growing something pretty special with this journey,” Yurkiw said. As for competing independently, Yurkiw has embraced the process. “In a way, it kind of took the pressure off. It definitely added a ton of pressure if I look at the situation from the outside, but I think there’s pressure that’s not helpful and I had a lot of that in the past.”
Perhaps the most anticipated racer of the day, Lindsey Vonn made a return to World Cup racing for the first time since her season-ending knee injury at the World Championships 10 months ago. She finished 40th, ending a seven-race win streak at Lake Louise. Vonn appeared to be skiing conservatively in her comeback effort, possibly also favoring her uninjured left leg, especially when landing off jumps.
“I’m hoping that tomorrow, but you know it does take a little bit of time to build the confidence back up,” said Vonn, who was in good spirits. “Normally, I come into Lake Louise and I’ve already had two or three or four races under my belt. You know, this is my first race, not only of the season, but since my injury in February. So it’s been a long time.”
A healthy Stacey Cook, who was on the podium twice in Lake Louise in 2012, finished two-hundredths better than Vonn in 39th place. Leanne Smith got off to a slow start in her run and finished 49th. And the struggles continued for Laurenne Ross, who finished 56th.
“The run was fine,” said Smith. “I felt like I skied the line well and I was tucking a lot. But I was far out, so it just came at me slower, I think. … I think a lot of it was I may have been too hard on my edges. … I got to figure out where I can make up time and see where I can be smoother.”
“The course felt good. It’s getting a little bumpier every day,” said Ross. “No surprises though. Everything is pretty much as we inspected it. You just have to go for it, and I think I gave it a little too much respect.”
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup Downhill, Lake Louise, Canada, Dec. 6, 2013
Equipment Skier, skis/boots/bindings
3 Fanchini, Dynastar/Lange/Look
6 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
7 Yurkiw, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
7 Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Ruiz Castillo, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
10 Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
It is the sixth of 32 races on the women’s 2013-14 World Cup season. … The second of nine scheduled downhills. … It is the 93rd World Cup event hosted at least in part at Lake Louise. … the 56th downhill.
It is the 26th career World Cup victory for Maria Hoefl-Riesch. … her ninth downhill. … It is the fourth time she has won at Lake Louise, all in downhill.
It is the third career World Cup podium result and a career best for Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden, and her second podium at Lake Louise having placed third in the downhill last season.
It is the third career World Cup podium for Elena Fanchini, … and her second at Lake Louise having won the 2005 downhill.
It is a career best World Cup placing for Larisa Yurkiw, besting a ninth from the Tarvisio downhill, Feb. 21, 2009. … It is a career best World Cup placing for Julia Ford, besting her only other scoring finish, a 22nd from Bad Kleinkirchheim Jan. 7, 2012.
It is the worst of 25 scoring placings at Lake Louise for Julia Mancuso.
Lara Gut (tenth in race) leads the World Cup overall standings 326-293 over Maria Hoefl-Riesch. … Anna Fenninger (fourth in race) is third overall with 225pts. … Mikaela Shiffrin is the top American in fourth with 220pts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon is top Canadian overall in 14th with 91pts. … Hoefl-Riesch leads the downhill standings 136-126 over Gut. … Elena Fanchini holds third at 120pts.
Austria leads the women’ Nations Cup 879-761 over Switzerland. … Germany is third with 5229pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|9||11||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:57.76||20.43|
|22||4||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:58.52||29.40|
|55||47||298084||AGERER Lisa Magdalena||1991||ITA||2:00.94||57.97|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|