Vonn conquers the super G challenge, making history in Haus
Lindsey Vonn swept the races in Haus im Ennstal, Austria, this weekend, handily winning Sunday's super G to become the only American to ever win three days straight on the World Cup. In addition to the challenges posed by the weather (foggy again) and her injured hand, Vonn will be the first to point out that super G, as a discipline in itself, is not simple. Winning a super G race - especially following two back-to-back downhill victories - is extremely difficult.
The last time a World Cup racer won two downhills and a super G in three consecutive days was Germany's Katja Seizinger in Lake Louise, B.C., in 1997.
Especially coming off the downhills, reeling in the speed enough to make turns around super G gates is difficult for many racers, but Vonn says if anything, she overcompensates on the turns ... even on her long men's skis.
"Sometimes for me I feel like I turn too much," she said. "Sometimes it's hard to find the balance because you know it's going to be quicker, turning quicker than in the downhill so you can't be overpressuring your skis. It's different for everyone but even with the men's skis, I find myself overturning sometimes. It worked out really well today, though. I was able to arc really well today."
"It's really hard to win super G races and today to win after the two downhills was not so easy," Vonn said. "The pressure was intense before this race. Super G is really difficult. You only have one inspection. You really don't know how much speed you're going to be carrying and where the difficult sections are going to be. For downhill, you have two training runs, two races, so you know exactly where you need to go and can ski things better."
Anja Paerson was also able meet these challenges. She pulled it all together again, taking second Sunday for her second podium of the weekend (she was fifth in Saturday's downhill and second in Friday's downhill that replaced the one from Val d' Isère). In addition to the fundamental difficulty that comes with the nature of an SG race, Paerson was racing on old skis because she broke her regular SG skis after her crash in Val d'Isère.
"It was hard coming in today after one DNF and one crash in super Gs," Paerson said. "I lost my race skis in Val d'Isère. They're totally destroyed. So coming here with old skis, into this kind of difficult course, I was nervous. I attacked it really aggressively but tried to be very careful where I was. In the lower part I had a mistake - maybe being a bit too careful to win the race - but I'm very happy with second place."
Swiss racer Martina Schild landed the third Cup podium of her career - the first since her 2007 SG victory in Lake Louise - tying Italian Nadia Fanchini for third place on Sunday.
Schild's teammate, Nadja Kamer, was seventh Sunday after making her first World Cup podium in Saturday's downhill.
"This weekend was really important for my head," Kamer said. "It's no problem for me now, to find speed."
Kamer's seventh was her third top 10 in World Cup super G and the first since last February in Tarvisio. She too, said that super G is intrinsically a tough discipline.
"Super G is difficult every time because you only have one chance to make it," Kamer said. "You have a warm up at the top of the mountain. You need this to have the new feeling of super G skis."
Even with the feeling of the skis, as Vonn pointed out, it's difficult to gauge speed on a course simply from one inspection. Tina Maze discovered this first-hand on Sunday, sliding off-course on a big right-footed turn at the top in the same place as Fabienne Suter and a few others.
"I was letting my skis go too much," Maze said of her mistake. "The turns are different. To find the right timing and make a good line, it's difficult."
Maria Riesch found the same to be true on Sunday. She was building speed the whole way down her run, leading the race as she came into the final pitch, but slid around one of the final gates and ended up 24th. She now trails in the overall Cup standings with 702 points to Vonn's 894.
"I had good speed in the last pitch, but I was too far back," Riesch said. "I was skiing really fast. There were some bumps and I was too passive in that turn and my skis didn't turn around. I'm a little bit sad that I didn't make more out of this weekend but I still had fun. I'll try to get a few more points in slalom than I got here."
The next stop on the women's World Cup tour is a night slalom on Tuesday down the road in Flachau, Austria.
- by Shauna Farnell