It’s been a relatively quiet winter for the reigning overall World Cup champion, Tina Maze. Downhill was the fifth and final discipline in which the Slovenian picked up a win last season. This year, ironically, it was the first.
“I have had my ups and downs this winter and one learns much more from losing. It just feels good right now,” said Maze.
After racing on an abbreviated Olympia delle Tofane course Friday due to weather, the ladies got a chance to race full-length under ideal, sunny conditions in the second of two downhills this week in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
It was one of those races in which the athletes kept one-upping each other, a tight battle where the top-15 finishers were all within the same second. Americans Julia Mancuso and Stacey Cook, running 12th and 15th respectively, each spent some time in the leader’s box.
“This is exactly the direction we need to be moving in right now. The Olympics are coming up quickly and this team is starting to believe in their abilities again,” said head U.S. women’s coach Alex Hoedlmoser. “Today, the skiing was in general really good. We’ll look at some things we can do to be faster tomorrow, but this was a really tight race and it just came down to perfect execution.”
Finding her stride, Cook ultimately tied Anna Fenninger for fifth, adding to an already impressive week of racing in which she’s picked up a top 10 in the super G (personal best since 2007) and another fifth-place result in Friday’s downhill. A day later, she was a little shaky out of the start but managed to make up time through the middle of the course and carry speed nicely through the lower flats, as she does so well.
“I feel good about my results so far this weekend. It always stings when you are so close to the podium, but I know this is a positive move heading towards Sochi, and for the season in general, so I’ll take it!” said Cook. “My equipment is feeling really good as well and my technician deserves a lot of credit. I heard I made up a lot of time on the bottom flats. Four races in a row is a lot, but it would mean a lot to me to complete the weekend with a good super G result tomorrow.”
Mancuso was quick in the upper technical sections, skiing a higher line than most others and making an impressive aerial maneuver to stay ahead of things at one point. She continued her hot streak to finish seventh on the day, matching her best speed result of the season.
“I feel really comfortable on my skis and with my equipment now, and it’s all about having that perfect run top to bottom,” said Mancuso. “This week has been a perfect preparation for the Olympics. … Today I felt I really executed my plan to the finish line, just made a wrong line decision at the bottom, and also just need to adapt a little more to changing snow conditions. I’m excited to combine what I learned the last three days in tomorrow’s race, and then heading into the Olympics, there is always lots of excitement and I have always fed off that.”
For Maze, who not more than a month ago implemented a coaching change, it’s a good point in the season to turn things around. She was slower by almost 4 kph on the lower part of the course but clearly managed to pick up time in her line.
“Mauro (Pini) brought peace in the team, it just became easier with him,” said Maze. “We knew he was a great coach with a lot of experience. With him in the team I just have to focus on my skiing and not on other matters. He understood the situation and all the emotions going through my body and mind. He told me not to fight against but to accept the emotions and ski with it.”
Maze finished with a time of 1 minute, 37.79 seconds, nicely in front of Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden (+0.27) and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather (+0.38), who rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively.
“Even if I finished third today, my run was better in comparison to yesterday where I was second,” Weirather said. “I went closer to my limit. My goal is actually to know how far I can go before going to the Olympics, that’s why today is a great achievement.”
Kaufmann-Abderhalden provided the most impressive mid-run comeback of the race. Down by nearly six-tenths halfway through the run, the Swiss really muscled her way through to the finish for the second best time of the day.
“I skied well in the top section. The middle part wasn’t that good but I managed to build up some good speed for the last section,” said Kaufmann-Abderhalden. “Yesterday I made two big mistakes and was just hoping for a mistake-free run today. I’m glad it happened.”
It was another tough outing for Leanne Smith, who had some trouble holding the line and finished 26th. Jackie Wiles scored points for the second day in a row by finishing 29th. After a very positive result on Friday (17th), Laurenne Ross reverted to more defensive skiing to finish 35th while Julia Ford also missed out in 37th.
To view more photos from this race click here.
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup downhill, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Jan. 25, 2014
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
3 Weirather, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
5 Cook, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
7 Mancuso, Head/Head/Head
8 Gisin, Dynastar/Lange/
9 Schmidhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
Women’s World Cup downhill, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Jan. 25, 2014. … It is the 23rd of 32 races on the women’s schedule. … The seventh of nine scheduled downhills… the 91st World Cup race at Cortina and 37th downhill. … The race is rescheduled from Garmisch.
It is the 23rd career World Cup victory for Tina Maze… her third in downhill. … It is her first win of the season and fourth podium.
It is the fifth career World Cup podium for Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden… her third of the season. … She had not previously placed better that 14th in a race at Cortina.
It is the 15th career World Cup podium for Tina Weirather… her eighth of the season. … She has three podiums and two fourths in seven downhills held this season.
It is the sixth top-five World Cup result for Stacey Cook, her second this season and second in two days. … Julia Mancuso matches her best result of the season, the first coming two days ago in super G on the same hill. … It is the seventh score of the season for Leanne Smith. … It is the second career World Cup score for Jacqueline Wiles, the first coming one day previous.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch maintains control of the women’s World Cup overall standings 1011-863 over Tina Weirather. … Anna Fenninger (fifth in race) is third with 839pts. … Mikaela Shiffrin (did not race) is sixth with 614pts and Marie-Michele Gagnon seventh with 453pts.
Hoefl-Riesch also leads the downhill standings 475-400 over Weirather. … Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden is third with 389pts. … Stacey Cook leads the U.S. in 11th with 133pts and Larisa Yurkiw (did not race) leads Canada in 20th with 99pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|12||28||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:38.66||+0.87||12.19|
|21||11||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:39.10||+1.31||18.35|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|