There are many ways to win a World Cup downhill title. Being evacuated from the side of the hill via helicopter instead of collecting a crystal globe in the finish area is not the preferred order.
In a dramatic and disturbing turn of events, Maria Hoefl-Riesch may have lost the overall title due to a crash in the downhill event at World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland Wednesday.
Starting 23rd of 23, while fighting illness and fatigue, the German leaned in on a tight turn in the upper part of the course, slid out into the B netting and got seriously tangled up. She was heard screaming from the side of the hill.
With Anna Fenninger down in fifth place, the downhill title was already locked up when Hoefl-Riesch kicked out of the start with an 80-point cushion in the discipline. But perhaps more significantly on the mind of the nearly season-long frontrunner was the overall title race, in which she held just a 29-point advantage over Fenninger coming into the day.
With the DNF, Fenninger takes the lead in the overall by a margin of 11 points. Reports immediately following the race indicated a shoulder and arm injury, and the German Ski Federation later confirmed Hoefl-Riesch will indeed miss the rest of the season as a result..
For the downhill title, it was a subdued podium presentation with runners-up Fenninger and Tina Maze standing in second and third-place amidst the German national anthem.
“Not winning the downhill globe today isn’t bad,” said Fenninger. “I had to win the race to have a chance, but my run wasn’t perfect anyway. I am happy about the second place but above all I really hope Maria is OK and wish her she can race with us tomorrow.”
Perhaps lost in the drama were the day’s podium finishers, skiing for the first time ever on the same course as the men. Running 18th and skiing a tighter, cleaner race than anyone else, Lara Gut bookends the season with a pair of downhill wins — she opened with a victory in Beaver Creek. Finishing just five-hundredths out, Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl came back from as much as a 0.44 second deficit to charge the final split and pick up second place.
“To win the first and the last downhills of the season is just amazing, especially here in Swziterland,” said Gut. “Last year I only won one race and this year six. That is a good step forward and I’m really happy about it.”
The host nation of Switzerland had much more to celebrate as Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, who announced she will retire after the season, closed out her career in dramatic fashion with a third-place result. Aufdenblatten ran second, setting the early pace to beat. It looked for a while as if it might hold up for the win, but the big guns in the back of the pack proved too much to fend off, even with the warming conditions.
With just the top-ranked 25 in each discipline competing at World Cup Finals, the American speed team was represented by Julia Mancuso and Stacey Cook finishing 10th and 18th, respectively. The results come a day after head speed coach Chip White, after 18 years in the program, announced his retirement from coaching the U.S. Ski Team.
“Last downhill of the season and you just really have to go for it. It’s a really tough course,” said Mancuso. “It’s a fun hill. I like it. … There’s definitely room for improvement (in my downhill season), so I’m just going to keep working to improve and hopefully next year will be going better. I just had a lot of things going on with equipment, and that always gets into your head, especially when it’s an important year to be in top form.”
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup downhill, Lenzerheide, Switzerland March 12, 2014
Equipment – skis/boots/bindings
1 Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
2 Goergl, Head/Head/Head
3 Aufdenblatten, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
4 Suter, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
6 Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
7 Schmidhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Merighetti, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
9 Gisin, Dynastar/Lange/
10 Mancuso, Head/Head/Head
Women’s World Cup downhill, Lenzerheide, Switzerland March 12, 2014. … It is the 29th race of the women’s schedule with three remaining… the ninth of nine downhills. … It is the second race, first for women, of World Cup Finals where the fields are limited and points awarded to top 15 only. … It is the 36th World Cup race hosted by Lenzerheide and the 13th downhill.
It is the ninth career World Cup win for Lara Gut… her third in downhill. … It is her sixth win of the season and second in downhill. … She won the first and last downhills of the season.
It is the 38th career World Cup podium for Elisabeth Goergl… her 11th in downhill. … It is her third podium of the season, the other two are wins (Cortina SG and Altenmarkt DH).
It is the fourth career World Cup podium for Fraenzi Audenblatten… third in DH… and first of the season, her previous best sixth at Val d’Isere, Beaver Creek and the Olympic super G.
It is the 131st World Cup top 10 for Julia Mancuso… her seventh of the season including three Olympic results. … Stacey Cook is outside of the point scoring positions but is top 20 for the tenth time this season.
Anna Fenninger leads the World Cup overall standings 1191-1180 over Maria Hoefl-Riesch (DNF race). … Gut is third with 956pts and three races remaining. … Mikaela Shiffrin (did not race) is sixth with 773pts… Marie-Michele Gagnon (did not race) leads Canada in tenth with 479pts.
Hoefl-Riesch wins the downhill title 504-464 over Fenninger. … Tina Maze (15th in race) is third with 409pts. … Mancuso is top American in 15th with 160pts. … Larisa Yurkiw leads Canadians in the downhill standings in 24th place with 99pts.
Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 5353-2896 over Switzerland. … Sweden is third with 2617pts. … The U.S. is sixth with 1671pts and Canada 11th with 768pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|21||6||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:36.13||+3.82||56.69|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|12||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR|