VAL D’ISERE – When race organizers learned that Lindsey Vonn would prefer a cow – like the one she claimed after her 2005 victory – to the wheel of cheese they planned to offer the winner of today’s downhill, they had to act fast just in case Vonn did as well. After claiming her 61st career victory and fourth in downhill at the French resort, Vonn was thrilled to learn that she would receive a rather special prize.
“It’s an amazing day. I’m extremely happy, and I also get a cow!” exclaimed an elated Vonn. “I’m so happy. That was like the best surprise ever. I get a little calf. I’m going to name it Winne.”
The victory did not come without significant challenge from the rest of the field and the OK course itself. Austrian Elisabeth Goergl held the lead after starting 13th all the way through Vonn’s start. Although Vonn posted green lights over Goergl through every split, she dropped low on the line after getting bounced through the terrain and needed to pull out some magic to hold on. Crossing the finish with a .19-second lead over Goergl required a smart recovery on the lower part of the course that could only be pulled off by a veteran.
“I was a little bit nervous today too,” Vonn admitted. “I kind of got to the start a little bit late, my goggles had a huge ding in the lens – I was trying to swap them out – I just was frazzled this morning. But when I got in the starting gate I calmed down. I knew that I was going to have a lot more speed today, so I tried to just hang with it and ski aggressively over the rolls and I think I skied pretty well besides the mistake in the middle. But I think I still carried my speed decently.”
For Goergl, merely winding up on the podium was a welcomed result for both her and the Austrian press which has been critical of its skiers’ performances so far this season, though more so on the men’s side. The last time she finished on a World Cup podium was in last year’s final downhill in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
“It’s always good to have a podium for me and for our nation’s ski team,” said Goergl. “I’m happy that I had a good run. I put everything on the skis I wanted to do and intended to do and it worked out fine.”
In order to claim the podium result, Goergl made the risky decision to change the canting on her boots between Friday’s training run and Saturday’s race because she was searching for a more positive feeling out of her setup.
“I changed (canting) a little bit on my ski boots because I didn’t feel comfortable yesterday. … I felt it at the second gate, there is something wrong. But then you can’t change anything, you have to just find your way down. But I knew what I (had) to do and it worked out good,” said a satisfied Goergl.
Lara Gut was also a face full of smiles in the finish area as she stood poised to grab third after most of the major challengers had crossed the line. The 5-foot 3-inch tall Swiss star tried to cut off as much of her line as possible and stay tight in her tuck during her run, and her efforts looked as if they would pay off with a podium. But a late charge by Viktoria Rebensburg from bib 27 drew interest from the crowd as even Vonn’s result was called into question. After the German crossed the line, the board showed a tie for second place with Goergl, effectively bumping Gut into fourth at .39 seconds out.
“Usually I just try to do shorter lines … in the flat I still have to find out what I can do to be faster. But when it’s steep and when it’s turny, I just try to do that using my technique,” said Gut. “I just tried to ski really aggressive and just stay on the ski and go on. This was the thing. I feel confident. It wasn’t that tricky or wasn’t so fast, (so) I really had time to try to have more speed.”
Despite finishing seventh, overall World Cup leader Tina Maze was pleased with her result and was relieved to have collected more points on the day. She has struggled to adjust in Val d’Isere from training slalom at the end of last week into letting her skis run more down the OK, but she noted that she is looking forward to the super G and appreciates the challenge of competing in all the disciplines.
After Vonn, Canadian Larisa Yurkiw was the next best North American, finishing 13th. Although it was not as high a result as her career-best fourth from Lake Louise, Yurkiw still enjoyed spending some time in the leader’s box after running bib 2.
“I had a lot of work to do after yesterday, and I’ve kind of done that for probably a year now. But I think I just tried my hardest to do my job on race day, and I kind of like the challenge,” reflected Yurkiw. “I like to have a lot of homework in order to put a race run together and it worked today, so I’m pretty happy.”
Julia Mancuso in 15th was the next best American, and the result is something she’ll look to build upon in the super G. The whole day started off rough for the U.S. Ski Team though after Laurenne Ross, who held a half-second lead at the time, landed inside off a jump and hit a compression that spun her around and tossed her into the fencing. She was able to stand up and ski down to the finish area on her own. Then Stacey Cook, who looked determined out of the start and skied a fast top split, got into trouble in the middle of the course and the difficulties built upon each other until she was pushed far off the line and finished 36th.
Vonn’s comeback wasn’t the only one worth noticing, however, as Alice McKennis battled her way into the points in 18th to match her result from Lake Louise.
Although crashes on the course were less frequent than the previous day, Ross was just one of eight who fell victim to the track and failed to finish. Norwegian Lotte Sejersted catapulted over the front of her skis after a compression and slid downhill inverted on her head before hitting the nets with an impact so hard it tore off her bib. Miraculously, she stood up and was able to walk out of the fences. Slovenian Marusa Ferk was less lucky and suffered a broken fibula which will require surgery overnight.
One athlete who knows both the highs and the lows of Val d’Isere is Vonn. She also knows that being fast on the OK course does not come without risk.
“I felt fast. You know, in Val d’Isere you can tell if you’re getting thrown around by the terrain and you catch a lot of air over the rolls, then you know you’re going fast,” reasoned Vonn. “And I knew that it could be a fast run, but I didn’t know how much time I lost on that mistake, so I just tried to keep going and tried to keep my cool and stay low in my tuck to try to make up some time, and I’m thankful that it worked out.”
The win puts Vonn within one victory of tying Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record of 62, a feat many expect could happen as early as tomorrow’s super G race here down the same hill.
By Hank McKee
1 Vonn, Head/Head/Head
2 Goergl, Head/Head/Head
9 Merighetti, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
10 Kling, Head/Head/Head
Women’s World Cup downhill, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 20, 2014:
- It is the tenth of 35 races on the women’s 2014-15 World Cup schedule … the third of eight scheduled World Cup downhills. … It is the first of two races set for Val d’Isere this season (Two additional men’s races were originally scheduled, but moved to Are, Sweden last weekend by lack of snow and warm weather.) … Val d’Isere has hosted 163 World Cup events (at least in part) including 62 downhills. … Swiss women have won the last two downhills at Val d’Isere with Maria Kaufmann-Abderhalden winning Dec. 21, 2013 and Lara Gut Dec. 14, 2012.
- It is the 61st World Cup victory for Lindsey Vonn. … One shy of tying the all-time women’s record … her 31st downhill win. … five shy of the all-time record … It is her second win of the season … both in DH.
- Winning margin is .19 of a second … top 13 skiers are within same second. … It is the 275th U.S. World Cup win and the fifth of the season. … It is the 15th U.S. World Cup win at Val d’Isere, sixth for Vonn.
- It is the 21st career World Cup podium placing for Viktoria Rebensburg … her first in downhill. … It is her first podium of the season.
- It is the 39th career World Cup podium placing for Elisabeth Goergl … her 12th in downhill. … It is her first podium of the season.
- It is the fifth-best career World Cup placing for Larisa Yurkiw … second best of the season. … It is her best ever result at Val d’Isere.
- It is the 180th time Julia Mancuso has placed in the top 15 of a World Cup race … the ninth time at Val d’Isere. … It is the 15th best of 25 career-scoring finishes for Alice McKennis. … She matches her best finish of the season from Lake Louise.
- Tina Maze (seventh in race) maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 596-327 over Anna Fenninger (11th in race). … Vonn is third with 312pts. … Mikaela Shiffrin (did not race) holds fifth overall at 285pts.
- Vonn takes the lead of the downhill standings 232-168 over Maze. … Rebensburg in third at 151pts. … Julia Mancuso is fifth in downhill and Stacey Cook (36th in race) sixth with Laurenne Ross tied for ninth.
- Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 1785-1072 over the U.S. … Sweden is third with 921pts and Canada ninth with 224pts.
- The U.S. women continue to lead the downhill standings holding a 582-451 edge over Austria.
|17||29||196460||JAY MARCHAND-ARVIER Marie||1985||FRA||1:45.93||+1.46||17.47|
|23||5||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:46.23||+1.76||21.06|
|49||55||206548||MAGG Ann Katrin||1994||GER||1:50.68||+6.21||74.30|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|59||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU|
|26||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR|