American Cook tops the field in training
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — After a two-and-a-half hour start delay, the first event of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships got underway in strong, swirling wind at Beaver Creek on Monday.
Four inches of fresh snow greeted the women for their first downhill training run, which was pushed back from its original 11 a.m. start time to 1:30 p.m.
American veteran Stacey Cook put down the fastest training time, finishing in 1 minute, 48.16 seconds, followed by Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel and Swiss racer Lara Gut, both 0.09 seconds back. Although the women said the snow had been cleared off the course and didn’t slow things down too much, the wind — averaging speeds around 45 mph — was most definitely a factor.
“It was really windy. We didn’t have that last time,” said Gut, who won the 2013 World Cup downhill at Beaver Creek by nearly a half second and also the 2013 super-G by nearly a full second. She says the course is almost the same as it was, with less aggressive snow, than during her Beaver Creek speed sweep in 2013.
“There’s just a few gates a little more straight and a few gates more turny, but the course is pretty similar to what we had last November,” Gut said. “The slope is in great shape. It’s not so difficult as it looks. You have to be confident, stay on your skis and try to push on every gate.”
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Wind, wind and more wind
Cook, who has had three second-place World Cup downhill finishes — all in Lake Louise, Alberta — and who will be competing in her fifth World Championships, is hungry for her first medal. But she didn’t put much stock in Monday’s training result.
“I wouldn’t look at the times too much because it’s so windy up top,” Cook said. I don’t think they would have run a race in that kind of wind. So I’m not really looking at the scoreboard.”
Gut said that she held back a little due to the wind and will have more to give in today’s super-G and Friday’s downhill race.
“I just tried to ski clean, this was my goal, to ski the way I can,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the most important thing to go 100 percent for the first training.”
Mowinckel, whose top World Cup result is a fifth place in December’s giant slalom in Kuehtai in Tirol, Austria, and who finished eight in the 2013 giant slalom at Beaver Creek and has a pair of top 10s in super G, wasn’t holding back and surprised herself with her second-place finish.
“For sure I was gunning it. I was not taking it easy,” said the 22-year-old Norwegian. “I was quite surprised. I’m more of a GS skier and super-G, but this was fun. It is a really technical course. You are traversing a lot and there are big arcs but you’re going across the slope all the time. There’s a lot happening. I managed to do a high line and got the speed out of every turn instead of fighting against everything.”
After Gut and Mowinckel came Lindsey Vonn and Swiss veteran Fabienne Suter, who finished the training run in 1:48.78, 0.62 seconds off of Cook’s lead pace.
“You have to be on the line and you have to attack. You have to find a good mix between these two things,” said Suter, who finished fourth in the 2013 Beaver Creek downhill race, just 0.06 seconds off of the podium. “It’s not an easy course. To win here or get a medal you have to be … how do you say in English? Fearless.”
Wrapping up the top 10 in Monday’s downhill training was Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather (who finished second on the Raptor downhill course in the 2013 World Cup) in sixth, American Laurenne Ross in seventh, World Cup overall leader Tina Maze from Slovenia in eighth, Austrian veteran Nicole Hosp in ninth and her compatriot Nicole Schmidhofer in 10th.