Lake Louise World Cup ladies races - preview
by Michael Mastarciyan
With just one day to go before the first speed race of the season, it’s probably a good time to take a deeper look into the event - both past and present.
The women of the World Cup have been coming to this jewel of a race course nestled in the majestic Canadian Rockies for just over twenty years.
Since 1989 many of the most famous racers in the world have won downhills and Super-G’s here. Michela Figini, Picabo Street, Alexandra Meissnitzer and Isolde Kostner to name a few, have all stepped onto the top of the podium at The Lake (as it’s known in the Canadian ski racing community).
A select few, however, have been very successful on these slopes - almost to the point of total domination.
French racing legend Carole Montillet-Carles has won three downhills and had a handful of other podium finishes here. Italy’s Isolde Kostner has four Lake Louise downhill titles and collection of other podiums here too.
Austrian Speed Queen Renate Goetschl has five Lake Louise wins (2 downhills and 3 Super-G’s) and German ski legend Katja Seizinger has six - evenly split between the two speed disciplines on this very same track.
The all-time Lake Louise win record however belongs to US skier Lindsey Vonn.
Vonn’s historic seven downhill victories at Lake Louise - which began in December 2004 - are a record that will be difficult to beat - and it looks like she’s still not finished.
“I’ve always had a good feeling on this course. I know it like the back of my hand. I don’t really need to think twice about it, I go out and ski my best and for some reason the mountain always loves me back. I’m hopefully going to continue things this weekend and look for some other good results,” Vonn said on Wednesday after the second downhill training run of the week.
Despite finishing in 19th on Wednesday, Vonn, the overall World Cup champion, is still the favourite for Friday’s speed season opening downhill as she’s known to and prone to go easy during training runs.
But there are others more than ready and willing to de-throne the American Speed Queen.
Teammate Julia Mancuso has been fast in the first two training runs of the week - winning the run on Wednesday.
France’s Marion Rolland has also been quick on her boards and is ready to bring glory back the French nation with a victory in the Canadian Rockies - something that hasn’t happened in seven years. Teammates Marie Marchand-Arvier and Ingrid Jacquemod are also no slouches on longboards and throw down high speeds with the best of them.
Austria’s Andrea Fischbacher, Elisabeth Goergl and youngsters Anna Fenninger and Nicole Schmidhofer have all shown flashes of brilliance this week and are all hungry for podium real estate. These ladies are primed and ready to take Austria back to the top of the alpine racing world.
It would also be foolish to count out German juggernaut Maria Riesch and Swedish legend Anja Paerson who showed her toughness at the Olympics in Whistler. Both have been consistently fast all week and know how to win under pressure.
Switzerland’s Nadja Kamer, Dominique Gisin, Fabienne Suter and Fraenzi Aufdenblatten have been comfortable on the fast, icy course for the entire week and if it stays fast, don’t count them out either.
Italy’s Daniela Merighetti has been tearing it up and so has fellow Italian Elena Fanchini who would surely like to match her sister Nadia, who won a Super-G here in 2008. Both could be on the podium if Italia truly has some Forza on race day.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze and US skier Stacy Cook also clocked lightning fast times on the Lake Louise track and are itching for victories here, especially Cook who has been graciously and diligently working at her craft under the shadow of Vonn and Mancuso for a few years now.
Finally - Britt Janyk - a racer who has had a downhill podium here before (third place in 2007) and is looking to boost an ailing Canadian women’s team in desperate need of a pick-me-up since Emily Brydon’s retirement last spring and Kelly VanderBeek’s knee injury last December. Janyk has raced this course countless times and is motivated to prove she’s still got speed in her veins. A victory or podium by the Whistler-bred skier could spark a personal renaissance for a racer nearing the end of a great career.
The third and final downhill training run of the week is scheduled for 12:30 MT on Thursday. The first downhill of the ladies speed season runs on Friday - also at 12:30 MT.