BEAVER CREEK, Colo. –Anna Fenninger put on quite the show for a packed arena in the giant slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but it wasn’t her 1.40-second advantage that had the crowd in awe. Fenninger pulled out one of the most incredible recoveries — with the finish line in site — to save herself from disaster while on her way to winning a second gold medal of these championships in dominating fashion over Viktoria Rebensburg and Jessica Lindell-Vikarby.
Fenninger skied a smooth and precise first run to take a commanding lead heading into run two. Her closest competitor after the first leg, Michaela Kirchgasser, found trouble on the bottom portion of the course and was unable to hold the lead. Fenninger pushed out of the start with a large advantage of 1.70 seconds over Rebensburg and built her lead up to a 1.80-second advantage through the final interval. Just when it looked like she was running away with the race, Fenninger caught her inside edge in a transition and violently lurched forward into a snowplow. How she avoided a crash was nothing shy of a miracle. Somehow she remained on her feet and barely lost a beat. She skied cleanly and aggressively over Redtail and through the finish to take the incredible win by 1.40 seconds.
“For me it was important to show my best skiing again. First run was good, but not perfect, and I had such a good lead. For me, it was important to show this again, to have the speed,” said Fenninger of her approach. “Then I made a big mistake and I thought, wow, I cannot stay in the course. And then I was fighting and going back into the course. When I came into the finish line, I couldn’t believe I won with that advantage. It’s amazing.”
With the win, Fenninger collected her second gold, and third medal overall, at these World Championships, claiming a bit of redemption over her lone bronze medal from the pressure-packed home World Championships in Schladming in 2013. She has now matched Tina Maze with two golds and a silver over the two-week event, and gave Austria its fifth gold medal and eighth overall here in Colorado.
“It was an amazing day. It was a big dream to be a world champion in GS for me,” said Fenninger. “It was very important, and that I can make it this way it’s awesome.”
Rebensburg has always been known for her GS skills but has struggled to find her form this season as she moved more towards speed events. After finishing 11th on run one, she left nothing on the hill on her second pass. Needing to make up eight-tenths of a second to land on the podium and 1.70 seconds to over-take Fenninger, Rebensburg laid down the fastest second run to move from 11th all the way up to second. Her run was reminiscent of the skiing that brought her a gold medal in GS at the 2010 Olympics and bronze last year in Sochi.
“Just an awesome day. … The first run I was struggling a bit because I skied good but I was a little bit too slow. I tried to push as hard as I can in the second run from top to bottom,” said Rebensburg. “But when I was in the finish I didn’t know that it would work out for a medal. In the end, I won silver and it’s unbelievable.”
Lindell-Vikarby, who last season finished second in the GS standings to Fenninger, has also struggled to find her form this season. But she was the defending champion on the Birds of Prey track from last season and knew the snow and course suited her style. Sitting third after run one, Lindell-Vikarby crossed the line with disappointment, barely finishing in second behind then-leader Rebensburg. It looked as if another World Championship medal opportunity was going to pass her by with two more racers still to go. But her disappointment quickly changed to excitement after Kirchgasser lost the line over Redtail and dropped into fifth, guaranteeing the Swede her first medal in a major event.
“I’m really happy. I tried seven times in world champs and three times in Olympics, so this is a big achievement. … I really like this slope, that it’s just to charge it,” said Lindell-Vikarby. “You don’t have to think so much. I’m better when it’s a little bit flatter, so I enjoyed it.”
The Americans struggled with the easy snow and course set on run one. They set out to give hometown fans a reason to cheer in run two. Lindsey Vonn, who won a bronze medal in the opening super G race, was competing in her first GS race in over two years. She appeared to brush off the rust between runs and was able to finish with the fifth fastest second run to move from 27th to 14th overall.
“It was really nice. I really risked everything, I tried to have a really clean run. First run, I feel like I skied really well but the timing wasn’t really right. I switched some things around with my skis yesterday, so today was the first real run on them,” commented Vonn “I think second run I really found the timing, and I just let it go. I’m really happy with my run. It’s nice to kind of end these championships on a positive note. I tried my best these whole champs, but not every run worked out. Like I said, it’s nice to end on a good note.”
Vonn was competing in her final event of four and was represented well with family, friends and her boyfriend, Tiger Woods, in the crowd to cheer her on.
“It’s hard with our schedules to be able to watch each other compete, and it meant a lot to me that (Tiger) was here for the super G and also for today for the GS. It’s so nice to have his support. He’s always just a good sounding board. He’s obviously an athlete himself, so it’s nice to talk to him when I feel down,” said Vonn. “I had a couple of down days this last week, so he was definitely a good support system. … He was watching my video with me last night, and he was asking a lot of questions. He really cares, and he tries very hard and it’s very sweet.”
In contrast to Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin was competing in her first event of two at the World Championships. She was considered an outside medal favorite coming into the day after starting off the season with a win in GS in Soelden and most recently finishing third in the final GS before World Championships. But her other World Cup GS results have been less consistent. Her first run of the day was a bit conservative leaving her with a deficit of 1.72 seconds, in 13th place. She attacked much more out of the start on run two and came down with an advantage of 0.64 seconds, ultimately ended up eighth.
“I think the second run was way better. I wish I could have done that both runs and have a better shot. But I’m actually pretty happy with what I improved in the second run, so there’s positives,” admitted Shiffrin. “I took a little bit of a different tactic (second run). First run I was really trying to make the most of the top of the turn and realized it was way too straight to do that and I was mostly just on my inside ski. So I tried to take it straighter and simplify it a little bit, and that helped a lot.”
Julia Mancuso will leave these World Championships without a medal for the first time since 2009 in Val d’Isere. She has won a medal in every major event (Olympics and World Championships) since the 2005 World Championships in Santa Caterina, with 2009 being the lone exception until these championships. GS has not been her strongest event the past few seasons and after finishing 29th on run one, she moved up slightly to finish 26th overall. The only other American starter, Megan McJames, finished 34th.
Maze was looking to match Lasse Kjus’ 1999 World Championship medal record with a podium finish in every event, but appeared to lack the necessary punch to compete on the easier hill. She finished within reach in fifth, 0.26 seconds off of the podium.
The women wrap up the championships on Saturday with the slalom, an event in which Shiffrin is the defending champion.
By Hank McKee
- Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
- Rebensburg, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Lindell-Vikarby, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Weirather, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Kirchgasser, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Pietilae-Holmner, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Hector, Head/Head/Head
Women’s World Championship giant slalom, Beaver Creek, Colo., Feb. 12, 2015:
- It is the eighth of 11 World Championship events in 2015 … the fourth for women. … It is the 49th World Championship GS. … The first held in 1950. … Tessa Worley is the defending champion. … Eva-Marie Brem leads the World Cup GS standings. … There are 116 athletes on the start list. … Diann Roffe is the only American woman to win a World Championship GS (’85 – Bormio).
- It is the fifth World Championship medal for Ann Fenninger, her third of this championship and her second gold. … She now owns three career gold medals in three different disciplines. … The winning margin is 1.40 seconds. … Top six are within two seconds, top 12 within three seconds.
- It is the first career World Championship medal for Viktoria Rebensburg. … She has been as close as fifth twice previously.
- It is the first career World Championship medal for Jessica Lindell-Vikarby. … She has been as close as sixth previously, back in 2005.
- It is the third career World Championship result for Mikaela Shiffrin, all of them top-10 finishes. … It is the worst career finish of 13 in World Championship competition for Lindsey Vonn. … It is the first career World Championship result for Mikaela Tommy. … The fourth best of five Championship results for Marie-Michelle Gagnon. … It is the worst placing of 24 World Championship placings for Julia Mancuso. … The third worst of five title meet placings for Marie-Pier Prefontaine. … It is the first career World Championship placing for Candace Crawford. … Megan McJames tied her second best of three World Championship results. … It is the fifth World Championship placing for Sarah Schleper, her first representing Mexico.
- Medal count: Austria five gold, two silver, one bronze; Slovenia two gold, one silver; Switzerland one gold, two bronze; U.S. one silver, two bronze; Canada two silver; Sweden two bronze; Norway one silver; Germany one silver.
|47||52||35079||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG||1:16.26||1:15.26||2:31.52||+12.36||87.04|
|51||61||35177||SIMARI BIRKNER Angelica||1994||ARG||1:15.68||1:17.14||2:32.82||+13.66||96.20|
|54||62||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU||1:17.54||1:17.40||2:34.94||+15.78||111.13|
|56||55||255367||VILHJALMSDOTTIR Helga Maria||1995||ISL||1:17.86||1:17.68||2:35.54||+16.38||115.35|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|97||955000||OETTL REYES Ornella||1991||PER|
|92||175048||MOE Lisa Christine Blunck||1996||DAN|
|86||175050||BERTHELSEN Nuunu Chemnitz||1996||DAN|
|75||255357||EINARSDOTTIR Freydis Halla||1994||ISL|
|66||175041||LEMGART Charlotte Techen||1993||DAN|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|