It was an interesting weekend of racing in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to say the least. Weather forced the cancellation of two out of the three days of women’s World Cup action with a lone super-G from a lowered start taking place on Saturday.
One could say the real winner of the weekend was the infamous “Maloja Snake.” The notorious weather phenomenon is caused by warm air rising up the nearby mountains and forming a thick layer of low-lying fog that winds its way through the St. Moritz valley. It caused more than a few problems for racers over the three days of action.
Friday’s alpine combined saw the much-anticipated return of America’s most decorated female Olympic skier, Julia Mancuso, but after morning weather forced organizers to flip the script and run the slalom portion first, the fog failed to clear in time for the afternoon super-G run. The day was unfortunately scrapped after the slalom run with Mikaela Shiffrin leading and Mancuso feeling out her race legs.
“It felt awesome,” Mancuso shared after her slalom run. “Slalom is not my specialty, so that was a little bit funny to make it down, but I’m really hoping to get some practice in the super-G. It was pure joy. Of course, it doesn’t feel good to be 7.9 seconds out but at the same time its like a few good turns and I can make up a few seconds. Everyone has to participate and have fun and that’s just what I’m here to do.”
Unfortunately for Mancuso, she wouldn’t get that super-G practice. Despite her large deficit in the slalom run, there were still some important take-aways for the injury-plagued American star.
“The cool thing about making it to the finish is that I just need to trust myself more,” she continued. “I don’t have a lot of pain, but when I’m training without the adrenaline I do have a lot of pain, especially in slalom, so it was hard for me to get over that hurdle but once I was in the gate and skiing the turns I didn’t have that much pain so it makes me really positive for the speed races. If I can keep improving, I think when you’re far behind you can make big jumps. I still think its realistic and I’m looking forward to some good super-G.”
Saturday the Maloja Snake disappeared but another ski racing menace reared its head. High winds forced the start to be lowered for the super-G race and continued to cause problems and delays throughout the day’s racing. The Swiss team, however, reigned supreme landing two athletes on the podium with Jasmine Flury taking her maiden World Cup win followed closely by Michelle Gisin in second, a slim 0.10 seconds shy of the win herself. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who regularly trains with the Swiss, once again landed on the podium in third giving the host nation two-and-a-half of the top three spots.
“I’m still crazy about the thought of being the winner of this World Cup race,” Flury shared after the race. “But slowly, I’m starting to realize this.”
“We’re in Switzerland and with three girls, well, almost three girls, it’s just a dream,” added Gisin. “Having Jasmine with me makes it so much better and with Tina on the podium — the queen of super-G, as I’ve said — it’s just confirmation of just how good a race we had. It was very irregular (with the wind), we got lucky and I was very lucky I have to say but you always have to ski down and I’m very glad I could show a run like that.”
Making it down became a bigger challenge than expected for a few pre-race favorites with 2016 Swiss overall World Cup winner Lara Gut crashing out mid-course and American speed queen Lindsey Vonn tweaking her back during her run and skiing down in noticeable pain before heaping to the ground in the finish. Mancuso also ran into trouble shortly after kicking out of the start and missed a gate for a DNF.
Shiffrin led the American women in 20th place, followed by Vonn in 24th, with Breezy Johnson in 29th, Laurenne Ross in 30th in her first race back from injury, Patricia Mangan in 35th, Stacey Cook in 45th, and Alice Merryweather in 49th. Mancuso, Alice Mckennis, and Jaqueline Wiles did not finish.
Ross has been clawing her way back from a traumatic knee injury suffered last spring and although 30th place isn’t what we are used to seeing out of her, head speed coach Chip White described her performance as “bold” and “the performance of the day” in an otherwise uncharacteristic race for the Americans.
With a super-G race and an afternoon slalom run scheduled for Sunday to complete the stand-alone super-G and alpine combined races, there was still hope of getting all the series’ races off despite Friday’s cancellation. Mother Nature, however, had other plans.
Heavy fog first lowered the start and then gradually pushed the start time back and back until it became clear that the Maloja Snake wasn’t leaving anytime soon and the races were cancelled shortly after 11am local time.
Before the cancellation, Vonn had already announced via Twitter that she would be sitting out the race due to her back injury from the previous day.
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to race today,” she shared. “I am extremely disappointed but my biggest goal this season is the Olympics and I need to take care of myself now so I can be ready for next week, and more importantly, for February. As always, thank you for the well wishes.”
According to the U.S. Ski Team, Vonn is taking her recovery day-by-day and no determinations have been made about any future racing plans.
The women’s tour now heads to Val d’Isere, France, for downhill and super-G races Dec. 14-17.
Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOSand Android.
Saturday super-G top 10
- Jasmine Flury (SUI) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Tina Weirather (LIE) – Head/Head/Head
- Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Anna Veith (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Johanna Schnarf (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Tessa Worley (FRA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Corinne Suter (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|Did not finish 1st run|