Vonn fastest in St. Moritz 'perfect day' DH training No. 2
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland – It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day in St. Moritz for the second women’s downhill training on Thursday. There wasn’t a cloud in the clear blue sky and the sun gleamed off the white, treeless slopes.
“It’s so much better when it’s faster,” Lindsey Vonn said to Maria Hoefl-Riesch after she finished her run in 1 minute, 44.43 seconds, more than a second faster than everyone besides Switzerland’s Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, who came in next, 0.57 seconds behind Vonn.
True, Vonn’s fast time – during which she also stood up before the finish line – was nearly 4 seconds faster than the lead time in the first training Wednesday, which belonged to Elisabeth Goergl, eighth-fastest Thursday, 1.29 seconds behind Vonn.
After a cold night, some good course slipping and an adjustment to the top part of the course, the skiing was much more action-packed on Thursday.
“There was definitely a lot more speed today,” said Vonn, who was 28th in Wednesday’s training when she was experimenting with next year’s skis and wearing a helmet camera which she said acted as “a giant stop sign” and guessed slowed her down almost a second. “Obviously with my normal skis, the snow was better today than it was yesterday – a little bit harder – they also changed a gate on the top which was a really good idea to make it a little straighter on the flats so you can get going a little faster.”
The most obvious section of the course that was faster was the last jump, where girls were flying high and pedaling their arms on Thursday … a far cry from Wednesday when they said they barely went airborne.
“I got about 10 meters yesterday I was going so slow and today I think I got about 40, so it was a lot bigger,” Vonn said. “It’s a perfect jump, really smooth, perfect landing. It was a lot of fun.”
Vonn raced her first World Cup in St. Moritz in 2001. By 2004, she was on the podium, taking second in super G. She proceeded to land on the podium five more times, including one victory (also in SG) the last time the speed events took place here in 2010 (they were canceled last year to due to wind and adverse weather). She said that performance was inspired by her tennis hero Roger Federer winning the Australian Open. On Thursday, she was also keeping close tabs on Federer’s progress against Rafael Nadal (although he later lost the match).
“I was watching in the lodge then I got to the top and the Swiss guy from Head told me that Roger won the first set and I was freaking out,” Vonn said, adding that Federer’s success is inspiring to her on the race hill. “Two or three years when I won I knew he had won before I went into the start and I was so pumped. So … knowing Roger is in top form makes me excited and it’s very motivating.”
Aufdenblatten, who turns 31 next month and will only do the downhill on Saturday, has perhaps more experience on the St. Moritz course than anybody, competing in Europa Cups here beginning in 1999. Her top result on the World Cup was a fifth place in the downhill in 2007.
“We know every single snowflake,” Aufdenblatten said of the course. “But it’s always nice to race here, especially when the weather is like today. We have a really nice job on days like this. Today it was faster, it was a real downhill. The jump was really nice, but quite big. I think for the spectators it will be a nice race.”
Due to the increased speed on Thursday, several racers missed the gate on the big left-hand turn in the middle of the course. Although the St. Moritz downhill course is considered one of the easiest and flattest on the women’s tour, herein lies the challenge, according to Vonn.
“There are a couple sections – especially where you go under the chairlift where it’s turny where Weirather and Fanchini went out – it’s bumpy and you can easily make mistakes. Also on the bottom, the turns go across the fall line,” Vonn said. “It’s interesting – it’s a deceptively difficult course, because it’s not difficult. If you make a mistake, you have absolutely no chance.”
Elena Fanchini, third in training Thursday and 1.12 behind Vonn, missed the aforementioned gate, as did sixth-place Tina Weirather.
Racing kicks off Friday in St. Moritz with super-combined, rescheduled from the canceled race in Val d’Isere. The downhill is set for Saturday and another super-combined Sunday.
The St. Moritz forecast is calling for clouds on Friday, then light snow on Saturday morning.
By Shauna Farnell