Kildow, Lalive give U.S. a 1-2 finish in downhill
VAL D’ISERE, France – The snow was heavy and the wind swirled so badly the skiers could hardly see. It didn’t seem to matter in the least for Lindsey Kildow and Caroline Lalive.Kildow won a World Cup downhill Saturday, with Lalive the runner-up – the first 1-2 downhill finish for U.S. women since Picabo Street and Hilary Lindh in 1994.In a big boost for the Americans with the Turin Olympics looming, Kildow and Lalive also become the first American women to finish among the top three at Val d’Isere since Street placed second in a downhill in 1996.”It’s really great for our team today and really great for me,” Lalive said. “It’s almost four years since I’ve been on the podium. I’ve definitely had some moments when I thought about quitting. But I told myself how much I love skiing, and that was my light at the end of the tunnel.”Kildow won a downhill race for the second time this season, ending a nine-year medal drought for American women at Val d’Isere. She credited teammate Julia Mancuso, who was 12th.”She gave me firsthand knowledge of the course, that the course was in good shape, and that I needed to be really aggressive,” Kildow said.
Austria’s Alexandra Meissnitzer placed third, ahead of Germany’s Petra Haltmayr. Nine racers failed to finish the course. And some, including defending overall World Cup champion Anja Paerson of Sweden, said the race should not have gone forward.Try telling that to Lalive.”It was obviously very difficult, variable and not consistent,” Lalive said. “But I’m glad for me the race went ahead. The more challenging the race the better I do.”Lalive, who has been skiing for the American team since she was 17, recorded her first top-three finish since placing second in a downhill at Altenmarkt, Austria, in March 2002.Kildow, also won at Lake Louise, Alberta, this month, leads the World Cup downhill standings with 245 points, followed by Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria at 172. Kildow is second in the overall standings with 322 points, with Dorfmeister first at 366.”The conditions here were tough and it was really difficult to do well,” Kildow said. “You couldn’t see anything and I could hardly control my skis. But I have had a good feeling in downhill and a lot of confidence after Lake Louise.”Last season, Kildow finished sixth in the overall standings as the youngest skier in the top 10. She is expected to be a leading downhill contender in Turin in February.
“There a lot of good girls in contention,” Kildow said. “Meissnitzer and Dorfmeister especially. These two are going to be hard to beat. They have a lot of experience which I don’t have.”The start of the race was delayed by about 1 1/2 hours because of heavy overnight snowfall and wind. A foot of snow covered the course Saturday morning.”It was really on the limit today,” Meissnitzer said. “One of my teammates got hurt, but I don’t think it was too dangerous to race. I’m totally happy I got third.”Kildow’s winning time was 1 minute, 21.91 seconds, with Lalive at 1:22.29. Meissnitzer, who won a won a giant slalom and super-G at Val d’Isere in 1998, finished in 1:22.30.Meissnitzer has seven top-three finishes at Val d’Isere since winning the super-G in 1995.”Val d’Isere is my favorite race,” she said. “I have so many nice memories.”Paerson said visibility was so bad she couldn’t see the first gate.
“So I just tried to follow the blue line,” she said. “The problem is there was a lot of snow and you start drifting to much. The conditions were not fair. Maybe we should just have raced for prize money and not points.”Austrian’s Karin Blaser tumbled spectacularly on her run and clutched her left knee.”My knee hurts, it was too dangerous,” she said. “The light is not so bad, but the snow is no good. There was too much snow.”The forecast for Sunday’s super-G is better, although strong wind is expected.Vail, Colorado