Fenninger shines in winner-takes-all showdown with Maze
MERIBEL, France –After six months of racing on the World Cup tour, the women’s overall title came down to one run. Austrian Anna Fenninger trailed Slovene Tina Maze by 18 points at the beginning of the day. After run one of the giant slalom the two sat in first and second, respectively, with Maze trailing by 0.27 seconds. It was setting up to be a dramatic finish to the long grind of the season, and the second run did not disappoint.
All Fenninger needed to do to take her second straight overall title was hold her position. But with the rain and snow that fell overnight, conditions were not forgiving and Maze was hot on her heels, adding to the pressure. Maze kicked out of the start and into the fog that covered the upper portion of the course and held her time over then-leader Eva-Maria Brem. She increased her lead slightly by the last interval to 0.22 over Brem, but then appeared to lose steam in the final gates coming into the finish. Maze ultimately crossed the line 0.08 seconds behind Brem, giving Fenninger a bit more breathing room.
But Fenninger wasn’t about to hold back. Not only did she need to beat Maze to take the overall crown, but the GS title was still on the table as well. Brem, who sat in the lead, trailed Fenninger by 86 points. The only scenario for Brem to win the title was if Fenninger skied out of the course. The bumps and fog and inconsistent snow did not appear to affect Fenninger’s focus. She built upon her advantage across the rolling, flat upper section and then held her own through the rough and bumpy pitch into the finish. Her solid technique and stance on her skis never wavered, and by the time the finish line was in sight there was no doubt who the winner of the day — and the season — would be.
When the green light flashed across the screen, Fenninger collapsed to a heap in the finish area, the emotions of the last week and the exhaustion of the season materializing before an excited crowd.
“There was so much pressure today and it was hard to stay focused,” said Fenninger. “I was so nervous before the run. When I came through the finish and saw the green light, it was just incredible. I am so happy to be standing as the winner today. This is what I have worked for during so many years.”
Fenninger’s second half of the season was nothing short of remarkable. She finished off of the podium only twice since Jan. 19 and one of those was the slalom at World Cup Finals that she raced in without any prior training. In the past 13 World Cups that she started, she won five, finished second five times, and third once.
“It’s been a perfect season for me,” Fenninger added. “There are so many people behind me who worked for these globes. I am very thankful to them.”
Maze’s end to the winter almost kept pace, but she will leave Meribel disappointed after leading the overall standing for most of the season. She will more than likely look back at the weekend in Maribor where she failed to finish both races as the turning point that allowed Fenninger to creep back into contention. At the end of the day, she lost the title by a mere 22 points despite finishing no worse than fourth at the four events here at World Cup Finals and almost matching Fenninger’s podium streak. She finished second or third in six of the final 10 races.
Maze fell behind in the standings last weekend in Are, Sweden, for the first time since December. It was later revealed that she was dealing with a stomach bug during that weekend and was unable to muster the energy needed to be competitive on the second runs. There has been ongoing speculation that Maze may not race next season, but nothing has been announced formally at the moment. For now, she will leave Meribel looking up at Fenninger with her immediate future in the sport of ski racing in doubt.
“I had a great end of the season,” said Maze. “I am really proud of that. But I lost too many points in Maribor or St. Moritz and even in Are when I wasn’t feeling that well. But Anna deserves it. In the end it was fun. It was tight, and it made it interesting. Either win or lose, we were there. I am happy about that.”
Mikaela Shiffrin, who started the season in a tie with Fenninger for the win in Soelden, ended the year third in the GS standings after finishing the day seventh overall. She was unable to keep up with Fenninger the remainder of the season and admits that improving her GS will be something she will strive towards in the offseason to become more of a consistent threat on tour.
“I knew how straight I could go, for the most part, and I still didn’t do that so I’m still trying to figure it out, I guess,” admitted Shiffrin. “Almost every single race in the warm up, whether it’s freeskiing or a warm-up course, I feel awesome and I feel like I have the rhythm and everything’s great. Then I get into the race and I just pull back, or something. … (I’m) not moving enough, not putting enough into the ski, and it’s slow.”
Lindsey Vonn had her best GS result of the season, finishing fifth in only her second World Cup GS race since returning from injury. She was able hold off Shiffrin for third in the overall standings. Starting 23 out of 23 on run one, Vonn skied smoothly through the deteriorating conditions to find herself sitting in sixth heading into run two. Second run was more of the same, leaving a noticeably enthusiastic Vonn excited about her GS skiing heading into next season.
“It’s nice to be back in the GS start. … I’ve been skiing really well in training, but it’s been hard this year with my injury,” said Vonn. “I wasn’t quite ready to start GS at the beginning of the year. And then all the GS races were pretty much over. The speed is there, consistency is not there.”
Now that her comeback season is complete, Vonn is planning to add GS into her schedule full time next year, with the goal to compete yet again for the overall title.
“I think if I get a good preparation period for next year I should be OK and hopefully can challenge these other girls and get some good points for the overall,” said Vonn.
View more photos from the race here.
The Scoop By Hank McKee
- Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
- Brem, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Hector, Head/Head/Head
- Vonn, Head/Head/Head
- Fanchini, Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Worley, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Hansdotter, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Bassino, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
Women’s World Cup giant slalom, Meribel, France, March 22, 2015:
- It is the 34th of 34 races on the women’s 2015 World Cup calendar. … The seventh of seven scheduled giant slaloms. … It is the final race of the World Cup season and the 16th World Cup race hosted by Meribel. … Scoring is limited by rule to the top-15 finishers.
- It is the 14th career World Cup win for Anna Fenninger … her eighth of the season including two World Championship gold medals. … It is her 11th career World Cup GS win and fifth of the year including a gold medal. … The winning margin is .36 of a second. … Top three finishers are within the same second. … Top seven within two seconds.
- It is the sixth career World Cup podium placing for Eva-Maria Brem … all in GS. … It is her fifth podium of the season.
- It is the 81st career World Cup podium for Tina Maze. … Her 16th of the season including three World Championship medals.
- It is the 141st career World Cup top five for Lindsey Vonn and her 12th of the season including two finishes at World Championships. … It is the 34th career top seven for Mikaela Shiffrin … her 15th of the season including a World Championship gold medal. … It is the 23rd career World Cup scoring result for Marie-Pier Prefontaine and her third best result of the season.
- Anna Fenninger sneaks past Tina Maze to take the World Cup overall title 1553-1531. … Lindsey Vonn holds third overall with 1087pts and Mikaela Shiffrin is fourth with 1036pts. … It is the second straight overall title for Fenninger.
- Fenninger also wins the GS globe 542-436 over Brem. … Shiffrin finishes third in GS with 357pts. … It is also the second straight GS title for Fenninger.
- Other notable North Americans overall include: Julia Mancuso 21st 331pts; Laurenne Ross 26th 293pts; Marie-Michele Gagnon 28th 279pts; Larisa Yurkiw 32nd 214pts; Stacey Cook 34th 207pts.
|Did not finish 2nd run|