After nearly a week of straight snowfall in Val d’Isere, France, the clouds cleared and made way for Austrian superstar Anna Veith to claim her first win of the season. In fact, it was her first win in years. The last time Veith won a World Cup, her last name was Fenninger. It was March 2015 in Meribel, France, and she beat her teammate Eva-Maria Brem by 0.38 seconds and now-retired Slovenian athlete Tina Maze came in third. It capped off an amazing season in which she secured the World Cup overall globe.
Six months later, her world changed. Just before the 2015-16 season opener at Soelden, the Austrian suffered a devastating knee injury. The medical examination showed a tear of the collateral and the anterior cruciate ligament of her right knee. She also suffered a tear of the patellar tendon. On Sunday, she proved that she’s recovered and has the speed back.
“Its pretty emotional today because I’m thinking about all the days when I was down on the bottom after my injuries—didn’t know if I could ski again, if I could race again—and now to be on the top of the podium, it’s unreal, I think,” Veith shared.
The Austrian was able to make a significant improvement from Saturday’s 15th-place finish, in part thanks to a more technical course set.
“For me, it was a better course than yesterday because it was a pretty turny and for me, as a technician, its easier to get fast between the turns when you make turns,” she explained. “When you go straight, it’s more for the downhillers, I think you need more confidence if it’s going straight, so for me, it was perfect today.”
Many World Cup stars were pleased to see Veith back on top of the podium including her close friend, Lara Gut of Switzerland, as well as Sofia Goggia of Italy, who shared the podium with her.
“I’m super happy to share the podium with her,” the Italian said. “It’s really nice to see her back.”
For the Austrian, having the support of her competitors means a lot.
“I mean my injuries wasn’t just ACL, so it was a very tough injury, and I think all the girls knew that it’s pretty hard to get over it, and it’s beautiful,” she said.
Veith was joined on the podium by Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather in second place, who managed to podium despite a yet-to-be-diagnosed injury in her left hand that prevented her from properly gripping her pole. She sustained the injury in her crash on Saturday.
“The track was better, but I was in way worse condition today because I was so sore from my crash yesterday,” Weirather shared. “My hand is pretty bad. I can’t really hold the pole, so I guess I have to skip the GS in Courchevel, and go check it out and get ready for the races after Christmas. But I’m really proud today because there was a really big part in me that didn’t want to race because I was so sore, and I was hoping that it’s going to be canceled, so it’s even better for me to know no matter how hard it is, I can still perform.”
Rounding out the podium in third place was Goggia, earning her second top-3 result in as many days. She said that, of course, she is happy with the result, but she sees room for improvement in her skiing.
“…It was aggressive, but at some points, it was not so smooth, and I know I’m still in progress with my skiing,” the Italian shared.
While most of the usual suspects competed for podium spots, one athlete was noticeably absent from the start gate. Just before the 10:45 am start time, Lindsey Vonn posted to Twitter that she would not start.
“Unfortunately I’m not racing today,” the American wrote. “Knee is a bit sore from yesterday, so to be on the safe side, I’m going to give my body some rest. My focus is on the Olympics, so no need to risk anything now. Still going home very happy after my win yesterday.”
The rest of the U.S. speed squad had a solid day in her absence. Alice McKennis lead the pack in 15th place, her best result since earning 11th place in the downhill at La Thuile, Italy, in February 2016. Jacqueline Wiles was just 0.06 seconds behind her in 17th place. Laurenne Ross also managed to grab some more World Cup points in 29th position.
After her injury in March, Ross was unsure if the pain and hard work of the recovery process would be worth it. The American’s recent performances seem to indicate she’s back on track.
“I guess I’m still not 100 percent convinced, but I think that’s because I still have a little bit of fear that something similar could happen again,” Ross explained. “But it’s definitely a lot more worth it than it was then. It’s paying off, and it definitely feels really good to be back and to be back relatively fast again and kind of building on that speed and taking steps in the right direction.”
The speed athletes now have a break until January while tech skiers head to Courchevel, France, for a giant slalom and parallel slalom on Dec. 19-20.
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- Anna Veith (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
- Tina Weirather (LIE) – Head / Head / Head
- Sofia Goggia (ITA) –Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
- Lara Gut (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head / Head / Head
- Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
- Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
- Anna Hofer (ITA) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|44||57||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU||1:12.35||+6.58||108.05|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|56||25210||MORENO BECERRA Cande||2000||AND|
|Did not start 1st run|