Photo above is Lindsey Vonn setting the pace in today’s training in Cortina…Sad news out of Maine, a couple of teenagers seriously hurt sleigh riding on a ski trail at Sunday River. Reports say one killed, one killed, one injured; both were residents of New Hampshire. No further details yet. Resort spokeswoman Darcy Lambert stated that sledding is prohibited at Sunday River…and sort of ski related, 60-year-old longtime Vail resident and popular local bartender Maldwyn “Maldy” George Zang was found dead in Gore Creek at the resort after his body was spotted by a woman riding a chairlift in the Lions Head section. Detectives indicated that he was not dressed in ski gear…and now to World Cup…
We’re at what is easily one of the most significant weekends of the season, with or without the upcoming Winter Olympics. The boys are in Kitzbuhel for the famed Hahnenkamm, while the gals are in Cortina for what is probably their nastiest speed course, which is run on the legendary Olympia delle Tofane.
Before we get to that, let’s take a quick look back at this past weekend. Men were in Wengen for another legendary downhill course known as the Lauberhorn. While not quite as frightening as Kitzbuhel, Wengen is the longest and most grueling run of the season, and has had its share of horrific crashes.
Four events over the weekend, largely speed and combined, along with one slalom. Marcel Hirscher won the slalom, if you needed to ask. First downhill won by Italian Dominik Paris, with the combined claimed by Victor Muffat Jeandet — his first victory. Second place went to relatively unknown Russian Pavel Trikhichev; this was not only his first time on the podium but also his first top ten! As for the future, who knows — you may recall Alpine Combined was the discipline that really thrust Bode Miller into the limelight. Third place went to Italian Peter Fill, and then a bunch more names you’d expect to see. One pleasant surprise was American Bryce Bennett claiming ninth.
The Lauberhornrennen was contested on Saturday; Swiss speedster Beat Feuz took top honors, followed by Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal and Austrian Matthias Mayer. Bennett finished in the points, as did comeback kid and new papa Steven Nyman. That’s a surprise to say the least, seems like it was just a few weeks ago Nyman was making his first timid turns following surgery. Well we’re glad to see it, and kudos to Steve for his determination. The win moved Feuz into second place in the hunt for the downhill season globe, behind Svindal.
Ladies meanwhile were in Bad Kleinkircheim Austria, where conditions were pretty funky according to most skiers. Super G on Saturday saw Italy’s Federica Brignone top the speed charts, followed by Switzerland’s Lara Gut and Austria’s Cornelia Huetter. Brignone followed it up Sunday with a second place in the downhill, which was won by teammate Sofia Goggia. Nadia Fanchini finished third, giving team Italy a sweep of the podium, which is pretty darn impressive. Lindsey Vonn was on hand, finished in the points but was not happy with the course, which was evident by the fact that four other Americans finished ahead of her.
Sorry to report that noteworthy Hungarian speed skier Edit Miklos suffered an injury during the Super G. Miklos reportedly strained her right knee ligaments near the end of the course, missed some gates, and intentionally crashed in the finish area because she couldn’t stop. Miklos was hospitalized and will miss the Olympics next month.
Another name out of the Olympics is Swedish tech skier Maria Pietilae Holmner, who announced her retirement after 15 years on the World Cup circuit. Holmner, who had three victories and ten podiums, has had some serious back problems over the years. Sad to see her go, but honestly, I had trouble spelling that name…photo immediately above shows Maria following one of her WC triumphs.
And so we come to Kitzbuhel and Cortina.
If you aren’t familiar with Kitzbuhel, the Hahnenkammrennen, or the Streif course, I suggest you click here to read the brief primer we published exactly one year ago.
Fastest time in yesterday’s training on the Streif was Italy’s Christof Innerhofer; he’s been on the podium at Kitz for the Super G, but never the downhill. Surprising second fastest time yesterday was — we said it would be a surprise — Steve Nyman! Unfortunately today’s training run was cancelled, but they have one more tomorrow before the racing begins. We’ll have the Super G on Friday and the Big Daddy on Saturday. The tech weenies will run on Sunday, unless they say to hell with it and just give the trophy to Hirscher. Seriously, if you aren’t familiar with this event, click the linky above. This is really the Superbowl of skiing.
Somewhat less known but equally hairy is the women’s competition this weekend in Cortina. Much like the Streif, the Olympia delle Tofane course has iconic names for key segments, as well as a number of historic contests in the past. Most notable being the Schuss, which has a nasty jagged cliff face looming over that section. Another is the jump near the finish, often called the Springboard or Trampoline. First training run today saw Vonn top the timing, with Goggia not far behind. Photo at the top of the page was taken at the aforementioned jump today during Lindsey’s pacesetting run.