If Garmisch-Partenkirchen ever petitions to become the sole host of the women’s alpine World Cup, then Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather will be the first in line to cast a favorable ballot. The venue was the site of her career first victory in 2013, in the super G, and has now become the home of her first downhill win as well after Weirather transformed a speedy training session into a race run worthy of the top step of the podium.
“I always look forward to coming to Garmisch-Partenkirchen,” said Weirather. “I like the hill and I have been successful here already. But to win my first downhill is very special. It has always been one of my big goals. Achieving this today brings a lot of emotions.”
Despite landing on the podium in downhill (Lake Louise), super G (Cortina d’Ampezzo), and giant slalom (Maribor) this season, Weirather hadn’t won a race since the Val d’Isere GS in 2013.
“There was pressure on me because I was the fastest in training and also because there were a lot of people who came to support me. My family and friends were there and a lot of people representing my sponsors as well. So I really wanted to perform well. But it was important to stay calm and focused on what had to be done to win this race. I am very happy it worked out like this,” said Weirather.
Unlike the men’s weekend plagued by fog, the ladies were treated to clear skies and a smooth track if not for some soft snow from the recent storm that wiped out Thursday’s training run still lingering on the edges of the slope. Slovene Ilka Stuhec kicked off the day’s competition with a smooth, compact run that didn’t appear particularly spectacular until her time held up all the way until the top seed, ultimately finishing a respectable fifth on the day.
Her fellow countrywoman Tina Maze was the first of the best-ranked skiers to pose a threat to the lead. Maze skied with utter determination and a renewed conviction to win, a trait that has been wavering in her performances all season.
“My run wasn’t perfect today, but standing on the podium is for sure still a good result, which I am really satisfied with,” said Maze. “I made a mistake in the upper part and lost some speed there. I used shorter skis than yesterday because the course was quite turny and the speed wasn’t that high. It took me some turns to find the right timing with the shorter skis.”
Despite losing over two-tenths to Stuhec by the second split due to those breaks in form, she made up for the deficit by the finish line to take a 0.15-second lead, though it wouldn’t be enough for the win. Even Maze knew it, shrugging her shoulders before the crowd in the finish area. She took over the leader box only momentarily until the skier with the fastest training run from the day before had another crack at the Kandahar.
Weirather barely released her tuck even in the air and appeared to float over sections where others chattered. She set up early for critical turns and carried her speed throughout, oftentimes setting her edges well inside the lines of her competitors. Her tactical skiing paid off with nearly a one-second advantage over Maze built up by the third intermediate, eventually tempered to 0.91 seconds by the end of her run. Fist pumps galore meant Weirather had a sense the run would be tough to beat.
Lindsey Vonn, unfortunately, sacrificed three-tenths by the first split and couldn’t seem to get comfortable on the course. Drifting low and outside on the line while leaning in through turns in the middle section and dragging her inside arm past a few gates, she crossed the finish 1.40 seconds slower than Weirather to ultimately finish seventh.
“I skied pretty well, maybe got a little bit pushed low in some turns. But in general I thought it was a decent run, and a little disappointed with how my placing was and also the point difference for the title. … Hopefully tomorrow is better,” said Vonn. “I like this hill a lot and I’ve had a lot of success here, and I was happy with my run. I thought I did a good job, maybe just a little bit too direct in some turns and pushed a little bit too low. I don’t know – I have to look at video and see what really happened, but it wasn’t fast from the very beginning to the very end.”
Vonn’s biggest threat for the downhill title, Anna Fenninger, countered Maze’s gutsy fearlessness with calculated precision. Though 0.42 seconds adrift of Weirather at the second split, she surrendered no more time in the turny middle section that challenged other skiers, among them Vonn. Getting perhaps impatient at the bottom, Fenninger cut off her line and charged at the panels but was still a half-second slower than the day’s leader, good enough for second place and a sizable smile from the Austrian.
“I am happy to be on the podium again and that I can show my best skiing,” said Fenninger. “It was a great day for me. It’s important to stay in shape and focused.”
Her teammate Niki Hosp provided the only additional threat to the podium. Skiing aggressively out of the back with bib 30, she remained in touch with Maze through her entire run. Just three-hundredths out of third, Hosp was more than pleased with the result and Maze equally relieved.
American Alice McKennis finished with a strong top-15 result in 13th and Stacey Cook was also in the points in 22nd. Early in the race, Laurenne Ross had a 0.66-second advantage over Stuhec when she slid on her hip off course with the finish line in sight. Although visibly distraught, she skied down and appeared unscathed. Julia Mancuso opted for a conservative line early on and then seemed to fall behind the pace of the course. She committed no significant error, but a series of tenths were lost with each edge set, and she finished more than three seconds out in 32nd. Larissa Yurkiw of Canada was the only other North American to collect points on the day, skiing to 11th.
As the season’s end is finally on the horizon, every point matters for those who are looking to lock up individual discipline and overall titles. Despite today’s performance, Vonn still holds the lead in the downhill standings at 35 points ahead of Fenninger. The small globe will be determined by the last downhill race of the season in Meribel, France, and only Vonn, Fenninger, and Maze are still in contention.
“Like Tina and Anna battling for the overall title, I think it’s always good for the sport. Of course, for me it would be nicer to have had a better result today and not be in question, but at the same time it is very exciting and I’m looking forward to the Finals,” Vonn noted.
With Fenninger finishing either first or second in her last seven races, she’s been able to cut down Maze’s lead in the overall to just 24 points.
“The battle for the overall is intense,” said Fenninger. “Tina is fighting hard for the big globe, and I will try to fight until the end too. But for the moment she is still leading. I have to see how well she does in slalom. We will see what happens then. For now I just have to carry on like today and score big points.”
The women continue racing in Garmisch on Sunday with a super G scheduled for 12:15 p.m. CET.
By Hank McKee
- Weirather, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Fenninger, Head/Head/Head
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Hosp, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Stuhec, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Fanchini, Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Vonn, Head/Head/Head
- Gut, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Gisin, Dynastar/Lange
- Goergl, Head/Head/Head
Women’s World Cup downhill, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, March 7, 2015:
- It is the 24th of 34 races on the women’s calendar … the seventh of eight downhills. … It is the 101st World Cup race held at least in part at Garmisch … the third of four set there this season. … It is the 41st World Cup downhill at the site. Tina Maze won the most recent women’s downhill at Garmisch March 2, 2013.
- It is the fourth career World Cup win for Tina Weirather … her first in DH. … It is her second win at Garmisch having previously won the March 1, 2013 super G.
- It is the 39th career World Cup podium placing for Anna Fenninger. … It is her 14th podium (all first and second places) this season including three medals at World Championships. … The last time she missed the podium in a World Cup was Jan. 18.
- It is the 78th career World Cup podium for Tina Maze … the 13th of the season including three at World Championships.
- It is the 179th World Cup top 10 for Lindsey Vonn. … It is the sixth best World Cup finish for Larisa Yurkiw, third best this season. … It is the 13th best career World Cup result for Alice McKennis. … Her second best result of the season. … It is the 12th score of the World Cup season for Stacey Cook.
- Tina Maze maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 1205-1181 over Anna Fenninger. … Mikaela Shiffin (did not race) holds third overall with 750pts. … Lindsey Vonn (seventh in race) is fourth overall with 742pts.
- Vonn holds the lead of the downhill standings 402-367 over Fenninger. … Maze is third with 306pts. … Yurkiw is the top Canadian in ninth with 202pts. … American Laurenne Ross is 11th, Julia Mancuso 12th and Stacey cook 16th in the downhill standings.
- With only one downhill race remaining, the title is limited to three women: Vonn, Fenninger and Maze.
|16||25||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:42.97||+2.03||25.14|
|26||7||196460||JAY MARCHAND-ARVIER Marie||1985||FRA||1:43.75||+2.81||34.80|
|Did not finish 1st run|