Julia Mancuso has been speedy on the Sochi Olympic downhill track before, earning a sixth-place finish in the World Cup test event on this course two years ago, and on Thursday (Feb. 6) she proved to be the third quickest down the piste in training. Austria’s Anna Fenninger was the fastest on the day, clocking a 0.21 advantage over Switzerland’s Fraenzi Aufdenblatten in second. But the day was not without its safety discussions as a lengthy delay ensued after the first three skiers initially took to the course, and they were ultimately offered a rerun.
“The snow’s excellent, and I mean there’s definitely a couple bumps on the course which makes it difficult and the two pitches are tough but in general it definitely ran how I expected it to. I’m looking forward to getting another couple chances,” Mancuso said. “There’s not a lot of warm-up here, so you never really know until you hit the course. But I was happy with how I skied today. I mean, I definitely have room to clean up some sections, but so far I think it’s on the right track.”
Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the winner here two years ago, posted the sixth fastest training run time, just a fraction over one second off Fenninger’s pace. Stacey Cook, who had a mishap halfway down nearly resulting in a crash before she was able to recover, was ninth and Jackie Wiles 12th while Canadian skier Larisa Yurkiw clocked into 13th position, just ahead of Laurenne Ross.
The run was interrupted for roughly an hour after the first three skiers descended, Ross among them, as course workers spent the time shaving down a jump near the finish. When the three starters were offered a rerun, only Ross accepted.
“It’s tough at Olympics like this because the testers are always locals and here they don’t have the luxury of having huge depth. They’re developing it, they’re getting close, but the forerunners were not going the speed that they needed to (in order) to test the course out,” noted Cook. “But you have to expect that. That’s part of the game here. There’s always things that aren’t ideal and it’s a big show and it’s hard to figure everything out at once.”
While a few skiers described the course as intimidating, Cook appreciated the challenge.
“It surprised me that I was able to pull out of that crash. I thought I was going down in the middle. I mean, I was down, but I got back up,” reflected Cook after her run. “That section was tougher than I thought it would be, actually. When I inspected it, I thought that it was going to be able to cruise right through and it kind of was in your face. So that was a surprise but it’s a good surprise because Olympics are meant to be a big challenge. The harder the better.”
Other athletes were more critical of the overall safety of the course. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who finished fourth, expressed concern for an injured skier from Italy.
“I think it’s a little bit dangerous for (the) ones who had to go like Daniela Merighetti… who flew 45 meters and hurt her knee. That’s not very good, obviously. I think it could have been done better,” remarked Weirather.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.|
|7||6||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:42.86||+1.13|
|31||5||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:44.88||+3.15|
|48||50||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:49.45||+7.72|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|53||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU|