Suter claims super G victory in Bad Kleinkirchheim
BAD KLEINKIRCHHEIM, Austria – The tricky, turny race course in Bad Kleinkirchheim is called “Kaernten-Klammer” after local ski hero Franz Klammer, but if it were to take on yet another name this weekend, it might be Fabienne Suter.
Following her third place finish in Saturday’s downhill, the Swiss racer who just celebrated her 27th birthday landed her first victory in nearly three years in the super G on Sunday.
Suter won with a finish time of 1 minute, 9.89 seconds. After stepping onto three slalom podiums so far this season, Tina Maze is back in her stride on the longer skis, too, and took second on Sunday, 0.34 seconds behind Suter as Anna Fenninger kept the lively energy of the home crowd surging, rounding out the podium, 0.74 seconds back.
As a team, however, it was the Swiss who collectively dominated the BKK super G slope with four racers in the top seven and all finishing within a second of Suter. Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, who was on the podium in BKK when the women’s World Cup tour last stopped here six years ago, was fourth, 0.78 off the winning time, Lara Gut was fifth, 0.88 seconds back and Dominique Gisin was seventh, 0.97 seconds back.
“I’m very happy about these two days,” Suter said. “To be first … it is just nice to be one day the fastest [of] all. I enjoy this feeling. The whole team in super G, we had also a good result in Beaver Creek and now it goes on here. In the summer we had good training and I think we are ready.”
Indeed, when Suter took second in Beaver Creek, three of her teammates (Martina Schild, Aufdenblatten and Gisin) were also in the top seven. But Suter’s mastery of the Bad Kleinkirchheim course, which is shaded, off-camber, steep and was rock solid after a few fresh centimeters of snow were cleared off of it Sunday, was reminiscent of her three consecutive days of success in Bansko in 2009. It was there that she won the first downhill race of her World Cup career, then was third in the following day’s downhill and second in the super G the day after that.
“Sometime it works and you really don’t know why,” Suter said after the race Sunday. “At the moment everything is good – the skis, my technique … yesterday and in Beaver, I felt I can be fast, I felt I can be on top of the world. Now today, it is so nice to know I was the fastest [of] all the athletes.”
Maze was also happy to be back on her game on the speed track. Slalom has been the Slovenian all-rounder’s best discipline so far this season but before Sunday, the last time she was on a super G podium was when she took the silver medal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
“It’s been a while,” Maze said, adding that the BKK course is of a certain variety that requires special focus. “You need to know where the course is going. It was the same in Vancouver. It’s the same in Bansko – all of these hills are steep and tough to ski. Sometimes you get confused on the slope, you don’t know where you are. I’m happy I did this run so good.”
Following her 10th-place finish in the BKK downhill on Saturday, Fenninger was also very pleased with her performance in the super G.
“It was very difficult today for me. Yesterday was a hard day,” said the Austrian, who took her first World Cup victory a few days ago in the Lienz giant slalom and also podiumed in the Beaver Creek and Lake Louise SG races this season. “The focus today was for good skiing, not for a result. So I’m very satisfied. I’m proud to be on the podium at home again. It was a good run. I was in the start and I really knew what to do, so for me it was really clear. I risked a lot. I was fast at the top. For me the difficult part was the finish, there is the last compress. You have to go around there, if you are too straight, the compress was really hard and you lost speed.”
The compression area was where many of the favorites going into the race Sunday scrubbed their speed. This included Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, both of whom had strong leads at the top of the course but, without making any stark mistakes, dropped speed in this middle section and couldn’t recover it around the last winding turns to the finish.
“It’s about adapting down the course,” said Mancuso, whose coach set Sunday’s course and who was third in Saturday’s DH. “It’s just hard when you’re expecting a plan and then to change your plan halfway through the run. There’s a lot of terrain changes here. You definitely can’t lose your speed because there’s not many places to get it back. As a team, we probably over-inspected.”
Mancuso ended up a respectable eighth place, 1.01 seconds off the pace, but four-time World Cup super G champion Vonn, who won both of the other SGs this season in Beaver Creek and Lake Loiuse, fell to 18th Sunday, the worst result of super G races she has finished since her performance here in Bad Kleinkirchheim in 2006. Vonn has had the flu for several days and hopes to be back on her game next weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
“I didn’t have the self-confidence, I didn’t have the power I normally have,” Vonn said. “I’m still not myself. I’m just going to try to rest up the next couple of days and try to get my form back for the next races.”
Several other racers appeared to have found a new kind of form on Sunday. One of these was German youngster Veronique Hronek, starting No. 38. After her 17th place in Saturday’s DH, the 20-year-old skied another career best, this time sixth place, and was the only other racer besides Maze, Fenninger and the Swiss contingent to finish within a second of Suter. Following Mancuso, Saturday’s downhill winner Elisabeth Goergl was ninth and her teammate and fellow veteran Nicole Hosp was 10th. Also riding the Austrian wave of power, Stefanie Koehle landed her best SG result to date in 11th.
By Shauna Farnell