Stacey Cook in Friday's downhill training. (GEPA)

Stacey Cook in Friday’s downhill training (GEPA/Mario Kneisl)

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — The second day of downhill training commenced on the women’s Olympic course with reports from the hill overwhelmingly positive.

There are high hopes on the U.S. women’s speed team, which struggled in many ways in the early part of the winter. But with season-best results in Cortina d’Ampezzo two weeks ago, the group seems to be firing on all cylinders heading into the Games.

With a time of 1 minute, 42.70 seconds Fabienne Suter was fastest and earned herself one of the coveted starting spots for Switzerland, followed by Tina Weirather and Anna Fenninger.

“I’m really relieved that I have made it. It’s always a certain kind of pressure which runs with you and is on your mind. Today was very important for me,” said Suter. “There are two or three spots where I didn’t run well, and I’m going to have to examine exactly what I’ll want to do differently there.”

The Americans weren’t too far back from the top; Stacey Cook continued her hot streak and led the team in sixth.

“The course is awesome. It’s really fun, especially out of the start, the first pitch,” said Cook. “You get the steep pitch; you get this uphill, sidehill and this small jump, and then you get into another challenging pitch. That section has kind of been giving me trouble. I keep making some mistakes in there. Then, the bottom suits me a little bit more, I guess, with the flats in the terrain — that’s kind of more my element. Coming into the finish is another really fun pitch pitch again.

“I (am) definitely (skiing) better (after training here) the last two days. And I think that’s a big focus, just getting more comfortable and actually skiing better — not really focusing on the small line things quite yet.”

Julia Mancuso, who has emerged as the major focus of the media in Sochi in the absence of Lindsey Vonn, finished 10th and appeared calm and generally excited to be skiing in Russia. Like Cook, she also recently enjoyed season-best results in Cortina.

“It’s a good course because you have to be precise,” said Mancuso. “You can’t get away with really anything on there. You really have to nail every section and there’s a lot of flat and steep — there’s nothing really medium — and the speed feels high. … The steep parts are definitely where I need to improve.”

Mancuso said she is less concerned about tactics at this point and more concerned with “skiing well. … It’s really more about skiing in a good position and trusting (yourself) and looking for speed everywhere.”

A midseason change to her boots is among the reasons for her recent improvement and confidence, according to the three-time Olympic medalist.

“I’ve just been changing back and forth between ski boots. … Equipment is always a difficult thing to figure out because in the summer nothing’s ever exactly like the winter,” said Mancuso. “I guess I just made the mistake of assuming too many things at the beginning of the season. Because it is such an important season, I was just changing too many things. … My boots are a little big for me, but it’s the model that most of the men use in downhill, and I believe they’re the best model to use … They fit me and it’s more important to be in a better position. You just cant’t sit back at all.

“(The good results) are mostly about confidence,” Mancuso added. “It just took putting everything together. That’s really all that changed. Skiing is such a mental game … That’s what I needed to do, was forget about everything else and step up to the plate.”

Asked if this could potentially be her final time competing at the Olympics and if that’s something on her mind, Mancuso said, “It just depends. It changes all the time. I think it has a lot to do with results. It’s tough when you’re not doing well. At the same time, it’s really fun. I love to ski. It doesn’t go through my mind here (in Sochi). I’m just enjoying the moment and enjoying the races.”

Finishing 12th, C-Teamer Jackie Wiles certainly spiced up the conversation as far as selecting the U.S. Olympic downhill race team, for which only four women are able to start.

“Today was way better than yesterday,” said Wiles, who was all smiles in the finish area. “I nailed my line better, so I was put in spots where I could make a cleaner turn and I was in a better position the whole way through.”

With four healthy members on the A Team for speed (Cook, Mancuso, Ross and Leanne Smith) and also Wiles currently training at the Olympic venue, there certainly haven’t been any final decisions made regarding starters.

“They’re going to take the best four for race day,” said Wiles. “The training run tomorrow will be the test. We’ll see who steps up then and that will decide. … It’s unreal. I keep having to pinch myself. … I cant’t believe I’m here right now. It’s crazy. Last year at this time, I wasn’t even on the (national) team. … I’m trying to take it all in.”

Ross and Smith would theoretically be the two women who could potentially be threatened to lose a start at these Games. They finished Friday’s training 23rd and 34th, respectively, although Smith is reportedly battling sinus problems, according to a team spokesman.

“It’s going well,” said Ross. “The course is in really great shape. The snow is pretty much perfect, and it’s fast, and it’s really fun. … It’s really hard. It’s getting a little bit icier every day, but it’s still really responsive and I think the preparation has been awesome.

“I feel really good,” she added. “I’m getting more and more comfortable every day. I think my skiing is improving and I think the team, in general, the women’s side, we’re all getting some more confidence and we still believe that we’re fast. We’re hanging in there and it’s go time, so we’re ready.”

For the Canadians, Larisa Yurkiw failed to finish after crashing into the netting. She suffered a minor ankle sprain but will resume training on schedule. Marie-Michele Gagnon will forgo racing the downhill this week, but skied to a 22nd-place result, scoping the course for the super G and super combined events.

“I’m glad I made it all the way down, made all the gates today because yesterday there was a bit of confusion on my part and the whole staff,” said Gagnon who came to a complete stop in Thursday’s run after being signaled by a courseworker. “It’s technical and it never stops. There’s never a moment where you’re just going in a straight line and that’s it. There’s not really any gliding turns and I think that should suit me.”



Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Total Time Diff.
 1  1  515766 SUTER Fabienne 1985 SUI  1:42.70
 2  16  355050 WEIRATHER Tina 1989 LIE  1:42.81  +0.11
 3  19  55947 FENNINGER Anna 1989 AUT  1:42.93  +0.23
 4  4  505886 KLING Kajsa 1988 SWE  1:43.32  +0.62
 5  18  565243 MAZE Tina 1983 SLO  1:43.34  +0.64
 6  15  537582 COOK Stacey 1984 USA  1:43.39  +0.69
 7  2  425880 SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth 1991 NOR  1:43.55  +0.85
 8  30  515573 AUFDENBLATTEN Fraenzi 1981 SUI  1:43.56  +0.86
 9  11  515747 GISIN Dominique 1985 SUI  1:43.60  +0.90
 10  10  537545 MANCUSO Julia 1984 USA  1:43.63  +0.93
 11  14  206001 HOEFL-RIESCH Maria 1984 GER  1:43.87  +1.17
 12  35  539536 WILES Jacqueline 1992 USA  1:43.92  +1.22
 13  28  296431 STUFFER Verena 1984 ITA  1:44.13  +1.43
 14  9  55766 STERZ Regina 1985 AUT  1:44.14  +1.44
 15  34  297702 MARSAGLIA Francesca 1990 ITA  1:44.31  +1.61
 16  21  516138 GUT Lara 1991 SUI  1:44.45  +1.75
 16  3  565360 STUHEC Ilka 1990 SLO  1:44.45  +1.75
 18  32  425929 MOWINCKEL Ragnhild 1992 NOR  1:44.50  +1.80
 19  36  565320 FERK Marusa 1988 SLO  1:44.52  +1.82
 19  8  515806 JNGLIN-KAMER Nadja 1986 SUI  1:44.52  +1.82
 21  24  205218 REBENSBURG Viktoria 1989 GER  1:44.60  +1.90
 22  31  105269 GAGNON Marie-Michele 1989 CAN  1:44.61  +1.91
 23  6  538573 ROSS Laurenne 1988 USA  1:44.62  +1.92
 24  7  56128 HUETTER Cornelia 1992 AUT  1:44.75  +2.05
 25  20  495318 RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina 1981 SPA  1:44.78  +2.08
 26  5  196460 MARCHAND-ARVIER Marie 1985 FRA  1:44.89  +2.19
 27  26  296729 FANCHINI Nadia 1986 ITA  1:44.93  +2.23
 28  13  296472 FANCHINI Elena 1985 ITA  1:45.01  +2.31
 29  29  55970 SCHMIDHOFER Nicole 1989 AUT  1:45.04  +2.34
 30  42  55759 KIRCHGASSER Michaela 1985 AUT  1:45.11  +2.41
 31  22  55690 HOSP Nicole 1983 AUT  1:45.77  +3.07
 32  33  155563 KRIZOVA Klara 1989 CZE  1:45.80  +3.10
 33  44  506399 HECTOR Sara 1992 SWE  1:45.81  +3.11
 34  27  538305 SMITH Leanne 1987 USA  1:45.86  +3.16
 35  12  55576 GOERGL Elisabeth 1981 AUT  1:45.88  +3.18
 36  45  225206 ALCOTT Chemmy 1982 GBR  1:45.89  +3.19
 37  43  375018 COLETTI Alexandra 1983 MON  1:46.09  +3.39
 38  17  515782 KAUFMANN-ABDERHALDEN Marianne 1986 SUI  1:46.21  +3.51
 39  40  485631 YAKOVISHINA Elena 1992 RUS  1:46.22  +3.52
 40  39  485632 BEDAREVA Maria 1992 RUS  1:46.39  +3.69
 41  37  245066 MIKLOS Edit 1988 HUN  1:46.56  +3.86
 42  47  297601 BRIGNONE Federica 1990 ITA  1:46.66  +3.96
 43  38  515997 FEIERABEND Denise 1989 SUI  1:46.72  +4.02
 44  46  155415 STRACHOVA Sarka 1985 CZE  1:47.19  +4.49
 45  48  435245 CHRAPEK Karolina 1990 POL  1:47.50  +4.80
 46  49  45331 SMALL Greta 1995 AUS  1:48.01  +5.31
 47  52  705349 GANTNEROVA Jana 1989 SVK  1:48.35  +5.65
 48  51  25096 GUTIERREZ Mireia 1988 AND  1:48.76  +6.06
 49  50  35089 SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena 1984 ARG  1:48.94  +6.24
 50  53  465098 CAILL Ania Monica 1995 ROU  1:50.50  +7.80
 51  54  115115 BARAHONA Noelle 1990 CHI  1:51.26  +8.56
 52  55  245051 BERECZ Anna 1988 HUN  1:53.23  +10.53
Did not start 1st run
 41  538855 FORD Julia 1990 USA
 25  296008 MERIGHETTI Daniela 1981 ITA
Did not finish 1st run
 56  705377 SAALOVA Kristina 1991 SVK
 23  106849 YURKIW Larisa 1988 CAN


Article Tags: Alpine , Top Story
Geoff Mintz
Geoff Mintz is a former alpine ski racer who cut his teeth at Ragged Mountain and Waterville Valley, N.H. After graduating from Holderness and UVM, he relocated to Colorado, where he worked as an instructor at Beaver Creek prior to pursuing a career in journalism.



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