Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin make Olympics in super-G
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Battling headwinds, crosswinds and blowing snow, Vail skier Lindsey Vonn salvaged a sixth-place finish to lead the U.S. Ski Team at the World Cup super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Sunday, Jan. 21.
“I’m not mad, I’m just a little bit frustrated,” Vonn said after her run where midway down the course strong winds blew up clouds of snow, reducing visibility and changing the snow surface. “Sometimes this happens in ski racing, where the races aren’t really fair and the wind comes, the light comes, the clouds come, but I tried my best and I’m happy with my skiing. But unfortunately, I just wasn’t very lucky today.”
With Mikaela Shiffrin dominating the World Cup circuit this season, it can seem like a distant memory when the American was locked in a tight battle with Lara Gut for last year’s title. That’s because that contest ended prematurely when Gut ruptured her left ACL last February in a crash during slalom warmups for the combined event of her home world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Gut had surgery and missed the rest of the season. She returned at the start of this season but had recorded just two podiums results — both second-places — before winning the final super-G before next month’s Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday.
It was Gut’s first victory since winning the downhill in Cortina almost a year ago.
“It’s good to be back — to be back winning,” Gut said. “In super-G I’ve always been fast. … If I ski the way I can I’m always top 10.”
Gut clocked 1 minute, 14.78 seconds for a 0.14-second advantage over Johanna Schnarf of Italy. Vonn, who is the record-holder in Cortina with 12 wins, was slowed by a strong gust of wind and finished sixth, 0.37 back.
“I’ve never had a gust that strong,” Vonn said. “I could barely make out the next gate and I was just hoping that I would see it at the last minute.”
Vonn started sixth and Gut was seventh.
“Some people obviously had it worse than others,” Vonn said.
Gut trailed Schnarf at all three checkpoints but then established her lead through the final gates.
“I didn’t have any wind, so I was fast,” Gut said.
Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria finished third, 0.27 behind. Jackie Wiles of Aurora, Oregon, was 19th; Laurenne Ross of Bend, Oregon, was 21st; and Alice McKennis of Newcastle and Minturn was 23rd. Shiffrin, of Eagle-Vail, failed to finish the race after getting low and late on a gate midway down the course.
“The whole way down I skied way too direct of a line, which is really frustrating because the problem was with my inspection and I’m not exactly sure what we can do for me to be better prepared for super-Gs,” Shiffrin said. “One of my biggest issues right now is still switching from the timing of downhill turns to super-G turns.”
SUPER-G QUALIFIERS SET
Nevertheless, Shiffrin qualified to compete in the Olympics in super-G, as Sunday’s event was the final opportunity for any other athletes to bump her out. Based upon results this season, Ross, who suffered a significant knee injury last March, met the criteria after scoring a top-10 super-G finish in Lake Louise. Vonn also qualified.
Despite Sunday’s super-G results, the weekend was very successful for the U.S. ladies with Vonn and Shiffrin going 2-3 in Friday’s downhill, and Vonn and Wiles going 1-3 in Saturday’s downhill.
“I’m still very happy with the weekend,” Vonn said. “I’m happy with the way I’m skiing and I have a lot of confidence now going into February. We still have some more races before the Olympics, but this is a good place for me to be and yesterday’s win was amazing.”
Gut reclaimed the lead in the super-G ranks, 18 points ahead of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. Shiffrin holds a nearly insurmountable 876-point lead over Weirather in the overall standings. After last year’s Cortina races, Shiffrin’s lead over Gut in the overall standings was just 80 points.
Federica Brignone, the Italian who won the previous super-G, did not start Sunday’s race due to a fever. Brignone will be looking to defend her victory in Tuesday’s giant slalom in nearby San Vigilio di Marebbe.
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