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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Superg gives first medals in Schladming

It's the most important event of this season, it's the event of every uneven year, it's the chance to win a medal to write your name in the history of this sport, it's a single race, all or nothing, it's the world championships.
This year's edition is taking place in the heart of Austria, in Schladming, but from the very beginning it seems to be destined to be one of the most discussed.

Maze wins through the fog, Lindsey crashes.

This seems to be Maze's season, she's the most impressive skier out there, being on top of every discipline in the world cup standings, having won more races than every one else in 4 out of 5 disciplines since October, but at the World Championships is never easy to win, mostly if you come as a heavy favourite.
Despite her leadership in the SuperG standing, the favourite for the win was surely American Lindsey Vonn, winner of several crystal globes in that discipline, world champion in Val D'Isere four years ago and 20 times winner in WC. The rivalry between the two was set  to be one of the most interesting sides of this year's edition of the WCH and with the superg as the first race taking place in the very first day, things seemed to get interesting from the start.
At 11:30, time at which the race was supposed to start, a very thick fog was stuck in the middle of the curse and a light rain was dropping on the finish area. The jury hoped for a sudden improvement of the conditions and start to delay the start of 15 minutes. That happened many many times as much as most of the girls and commentators were pretty sure it was a matter of time the race was cancelled. That didn't happen at the very moment it was slightly clearer the race started. It was 3pm.
As it was evident after the first runs, the slope was as easy as it was expected to be, but the course set to make hard to interpret the waves and bumps of the slope, mostly with the bad light caused by the cloudy sky and the wintry afternoon light.
Bib number 4, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, didn't seem to be scared of the conditions and exploited the big talent of hers to score a very interesting time, which eventually let her achieve her best ever placement in the discipline in a world cup level race. The Slovenian, who was one of the most interesting youngsters only a few years ago, suffered many injuries in her young career and you could see the joy of hers while one after the other important name in the lists of Superg finished even far behind her in the standing.
The first one to better her time was Swiss superstar Lara Gut, whose talent in Superg doesn't come as new to anyone following skiing even seldom. Swiss's race was almost errorless and her great ability to create speed even in the tightest turns let her score amazing partials whenever the course was more technical.
The Swiss led the race until the beginning of the top group and neither Rebensburg nor Suter could finish close to her, even though her team-mate Fabienne finished just ahead of Stuhec in the temporary 2nd place.
Then it was Tina Maze's time. The world cup leader started like a fury, pushing hard from the very moment she opened the starting gate, combining her power with a smooth technique. Her intermediates were all very close to Gut's, but a perfect final section gave her the necessary speed to gain as much as 38 hundreds to finish ahead of the Swiss.
Her scream for joy was suddenly silenced by another scream, coming from several gates above. It was Vonn's voice, her tears, her pain. Lindsey had just badly crashed landing from a jump and the helicopter immediately came to rescue her. Later news announced the rupture of some of her knee ligaments and the fracture of the top of the shinbone.
After the long break it took to take the American to safety the atmosphere at the start of the race was tense and one after the other Maria Riesch and Anna Fenninger committed two bad mistakes probably due to the tension, which set both of them out for the race.
Race was far from finished though, as Julia Mancuso found the strength to give her best despite the injury of her compatriot and the news of the death of her grandad. She skied some of the best sections mostly in the middle part of the race, but it wasn't enough to trouble Maze's leadership. Still, her run was worth a 3rd place, which would be hers even by the end of the race, despite two thrilling assaults brought by two Italians.
First it was caused by Daniela Merigetti, whose awesome final part made her gain quite a lot of positions, but couldn't make her finish higher than her 7th place. But mostly the 2nd was sure to scare the American, as Italian Sofia Goggia, at her very first race above European Cup level, decided she had nothing to lose and skied out of her mind being very close to cause some major upsets. By the end she was 4th, only 5 hundreds behind Mancuso, but as she herself said, this was not a loss, but an amazing result, even if it was not worth a medal.
The race was very soon interrupted due to darkness once the legal number of racers to make the result valid was reached.

Ligety surprises the specialists and wins the gold

Men superg didn't suffer of the painful delay that the women one had, but the condition of weather and snow weren't good neither. A cloudy sky made it again difficult to see and face the many waves of the slope, whilst the humidity had the snow gone soft hence difficult to cope with.
Immediately in the early runs two French skiers showed very convincing runs, first Alexis Pinturault, whose time would eventually set him at the 6th place, but most of all De Tessieres, who came to Schladming as a make up choice, the reserve, whose start happened only due to the injury of Clarey.
Gauthier, whose only podium in World Cup came in Giant Slalom a few seasons ago, knew he had nothing to lose and starting with the early number of 4, he exploited his qualities of GS specialist and the good conditions of the snow, before it worsened passage after passage. The French man had the very best section in the upper part, but his fluid movements made him keep a very interesting pace up to the end.
No-one of the following athletes could get a time close enough to worry the leadership of the two French guys, until American Ted Ligety started. GS world cup leader, despite having showed great improvements in superg throughout the season, had never won a race in that discipline, not even out of World Cup, but that didn't bother him as he knew the setting and the slope could suit his talent and skills. And so it was. Flawless he made an impressive central section and most of all painted lines in the latest steep that no-one else could copy, not even close.
His lead over De Tessieres wasn't that big though and one could believe the specialists of the superg who were soon to go down could better his time, but it just didn't happen. Aided by the fact that the soft snow made it more difficult for the top group to tame their skis and hence the snow, every one of the favourites for the title failed to catch on Ligety and De Tessieres, who both kept their first and second place until the very end.
Austrian hopes for the first medal in this home-world championships grew in the public when first Matthias Mayer and later Hannes Reichelt snatched a temporary placement on the lowest place of the podium, but in the end they were to be undecieved by Aksel Lund Svindal, the greatest favourite for the win, who had to content himself with a bronze medal, whilst the now-former world champion Christof Innerhofer seemed never racing for a medal and placed only 7th.

1 comment:

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