Americans disappointed at women’s downhill
BEAVER CREEK — Soft conditions and a twisty downhill course kept the American women’s speed team off the podium Friday, but the home crowds gave them no shortage of support just the same.
There were high hopes for the team going into the downhill, and at the end of the race, the best American finish was Lindsey Vonn in fifth, followed by Julia Mancuso in 16th, Laurenne Ross in 17th and Stacey Cook in 19th.
Although conditions were calm and sunny with fast snow, American racers seemed unable to master the demanding, turning course. Many racers throughout the day lost significant time through the middle section of the course, and it was the podium finishers who were able to attack the run and put gaps of nearly a second on the rest of the field.
“You have to have fast skis on the top. You have to have a soft touch. When you come onto the steep parts you have to give good direction, and it’s bumpy. The snow was really good today, but also bumpy,” said Vonn, who added that she felt her timing was off during her run.
“There were some really technical sections,” said Mancuso. “ I really tried to focus on the top of the turns and generate energy, and I couldn’t really quite get my skis to bite compared to yesterday.”
Ross said that the Americans didn’t really enjoy a home course advantage, given that the conditions during training runs earlier in the week varied greatly. Friday’s course was often bumpy, with harder snow and rough turns, she said.
“It was definitely different from what we trained on. It was hard to know what to expect and where to give the course some respect and where we could have gotten a little more speed out of it,” said Ross.
Going home happy
Still, the American skiers said they were happy with their performance in the downhill, and several are looking to do well in other races next week.
“I fought the whole way down. I visualized the course 1,000 times. I did everything I normally do and more,” said Vonn. “It just wasn’t a great run — a good run, a top five worthy run — but it wasn’t a good enough run for a medal today. I’m going home happy because I skied my best, my family’s here, it’s sunny, an amazing atmosphere — there’s just not much to be sad about. I wish I could have done more, but I tried my best.”
Mancuso admitted that while she was disappointed the team walked away from the event without a medal, she was looking forward to racing giant slalom and alpine combined.
“World Championships are about the medals and everyone goes out and does their best, but sometimes it’s not your best run,” she said. “Stacey (Cook) and I have been talking about that — when you get through the finish and you know you did your best and things didn’t go your way. We all seem to have tried to execute our plan, and it didn’t work out, so you just kind of move on to the next race.”
Despite the disappointing finishes, the spectators crowded into the grandstands and overflowed onto the sides of the slopes, giving American racers a formidable cheering section.
When Slovenian superstar and downhill winner Tina Maze rolled through the finish after a spectacular run, there were cheers of excitement, but the crowd was even louder still for the following racer, Vonn. After seeing the leaderboard, Vonn shrugged in defeat and waved to the roaring fans.
“I want to thank all the spectators for coming out,” she said after the race. “It was an amazing atmosphere. I’m really proud of racing at home. I wish I could have done something better for the public and my family, but I still have two more chances, the combined and the GS. While my chances of doing something there are slim, I will be giving 110 percent, and hopefully I can make a miracle happen.”
Cook, who crashed in Thursday’s training run, was dealing with pain from her injuries, but said she wanted to compete in the downhill for the fans.
“I wasn’t expecting Worlds to be like this,” she said. “I was expecting it to be smaller and less thoughtful fans. When I came down in the super-G and heard that crowd, I was so blown away and inspired by them. That’s what kept me fighting through today.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
Leith raced through foggy conditions to a photo finish for second place, and ended up third.