Swiss Fraenzi Aufdenblatten triumphs in her first ever World Cup win in Val d'Isère
The Swiss skier Fraenzi Aufdenblatten posted her first World Cup win leading a Swiss one-two finish in the super-G World Cup race in Val d'Isère, France. The 28-year-old Swiss skier from Zermatt, Valais paced down the Oreiller-Killy course in one minute 26.43 seconds to beat teammate Nadia Styger by .23 seconds and the ultimate favorite American Lindsey Vonn by .26 seconds.
With five skiers capturing the first six places, the Swiss ladies speed team set the bar very high.
"It will be challenging to measure up to this result in the remaining races this season but we are definitely on the right track," said Hugues Ansermoz, the Swiss Alpine Ladies disciplines coach. Indeed, with Fabienne Suter taking fourth, Dominique Gisin and Martina Schild tying for sixth and the other two Swiss racers, Monika Dumermuth and Nadja Kamer, finishing 23rd and 30th respectively, the Swiss performance in Sunday's super-G was impressive.
This result was important after a suboptimal season start for the Swiss speed team with only one top 5 result (5th place for Dominique Gisin in Lake Louise). "I am glad that our training efforts seem to pay off," Ansermoz said.
Starting ninth, Aufdenblatten took advantage of the perfect race conditions to take her maiden World Cup win in the super-G at Val d' Isère. Her World Cup debut dates back to 2000.
"It is a dream come true for me, especially because I had to wait longer for my first win than most other racers," Aufdenblatten said. Indeed, her first triumph in Sunday's race came after having previously finished 167 World Cups without win.
Almost ten years ago, Aufdenblatten grabbed two Junior World Championship titles, one in downhill in Kanada (2000) and the other one in Sestrière in giant slalom (2001). Since then, the Swiss skier struggled to confirm her earlier successes and live up to her full potential.
Until Sunday, two third place finishes (downhill in Haus im Ennstal 2004 and downhill in Bad Kleinkirchheim 2006) were the only results proving that Aufdenblatten can be among the best.
"Maybe my previous success came to me too early and too easy so I did not work as hard as I should have in the following years. I realized some years ago that I need to change that and work harder. Talent alone only gets you to a certain level but not beyond," Aufdenblatten critically reproves herself.
"I never stopped believing in myself though. If you do not have confidence in what you are doing, it is time to quit. This result obviously gives me some ideas for the Olympics," the Swiss concludes looking ahead to February's Vancouver Games.
"I was definitely faster at the top of the race than on the bottom part. But I found the right mixture between taking risks to be able to ski a more direct line and being cautious," the Swiss skier said when asked to analyze her run.
Aufdenblatten was also really happy for Nadia Styger to come in second. Styger and Aufdenblatten have shared hotel rooms for some years now and have gone through good and bad times together.
It was only Styger's fifth World Cup podium and her other four were all victories (super-G in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and downhill in 2008). "We are almost like an old married couple," Styger said and laughed. "Fraenzi (Aufdenblatten) is definitely my sweetheart and she is probably the only person I do not begrudge if she beats me in a race," Styger added.
It was obvious the two Swiss skiers get alone well. Both stood in the leaders box for nearly the entire race, laughing and giggling while waiting.
After winning the super combined on Friday, Lindsey Vonn's third place finish on Sunday was sufficient for her to take the lead in the World Cup overall standings. "I am happy with my result today but could have skied more aggressively and executed better. Super-G's are always difficult and I will definitely try to do better next time," Vonn said.
Vonn was deprived of clinching a possible third downhill victory this season after the cancellation of Saturday's downhill race due to windy conditions.
After the first third of the Alpine season (11/33 ladies' events), Vonn has surpassed her close friend and rival Maria Riesch of Germany by 50 points in the overall standings. Riesch, who finished 21st in the super-G, now has 531 points and Vonn 581.
The super-G course on Sunday claimed 10 DNFs, including French world champion super-G silver medalist Marie Marchand-Arvier and Sweden's two-time world champion Anja Paerson.
Marchand-Arvier crashed out after losing her balance a few gates before the finish of the Oreiller-Killy course. The 24-year-old Frenchwoman did not get back on her feet and the race was interrupted to treat her on the slope. She was then carried off on a sleigh and transported to Val d'Isère's medical center.
Anja Paerson of Sweden also crashed in the lower part of the piste and finished in the safety net. Fortunately, she did not appear injured.
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