Fenninger closing on Maze, Hirscher closer to overall
The big winners from last week on the World Cup were the fog in Bansko, Bulgaria; Anna Fenninger; Marcel Hirscher; Marco Sullivan; and Austria in general.
We’ll explain as we have three weeks in the season left, including the World Cup Finals in Meribel, France.
For the second week, Austria’s Anna Fenninger continued to reel in Slovenia’s Tina Maze with regard to the overall. What was surprising was this wasn’t a weekend like the previous when Maze DNF’d in both of her home tech races in Maribor, Slovenia, while Fenninger won a giant slalom for a 100-point gain.
Maze had a good weekend, finishing second in the combined and then in super-G. Fenninger was just better, winning both of those races. A racer gets 100 points for first and 80 for second, and, thus, the Austrian gained 40 points on Maze, despite a good weekend by the Slovenian.
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Maze leads Fenninger, 1,145-1,101, with eight races left in the season. If you’re wondering, this is two-person race. Nos. 3 and 4 in the overall points are Mikaela Shiffrin (750) and Lindsey Vonn (706). Miss Mikaela is a tech-ster, and there are only four tech races (400 points) left on the slate, so even if she crushes them, it’s mathematically improbable. While Vonn has started competing in GS, it’s unlikely that she can make up 395 points with 800 up for grabs.
For Vonn, it was a rough weekend in Bansko, weather-wise. She didn’t do the combined, understandable because slalom has not been her focus all season. She finished third in the super-G, which is good, but the second super-G, scheduled for last weekend, originally a makeup for earlier this season, was fogged out and will not be rescheduled.
With Fenninger winning the super-G and Vonn taking third, the Austrian took the super-G globe lead, 372-340, with two races left in the season in the discipline. The women have downhill and super-G this weekend in Garmisch, Germany, followed by two tech races — Mikaela to the white-courtesy phone — in Are, Sweden and then WCFs in Meribel (all four regular disciplines).
Fenninger’s path to the World Cup title is continuing to rampage this weekend in Garmisch and then trying to pick up points in the GS in Are. Meanwhile, Maze needs to break Fenninger’s hold on the speed races and hit the podium in the Are slalom. (Remember, Fenninger doesn’t do slalom, so any points there are a net gain.)
The Bankso fog-out is also a reminder that weather can get crazy in March, and that affects the globe chase. WCF races have been postponed before because of weather, which is too good or just bad. You want the lead in whatever you’re trying to win, a discipline gold or the overall, going into the World Cup Finals.
Remember 2011? Vonn lost the overall by three points to Maria Riesch after the WCF super-G and GS were scrubbed in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Hirscher throws down
American Ted Ligey is known as Mr. GS, but the torch has all but passed to Hirscher. The Austrian won the Garmisch GS by 3.28 seconds on Sunday, which is downright silly.
Not only has Hirscher all but clinched the GS globe — he leads Ligety by 188 points with two races left — but he’s 5-for-6 in World Cup giant slalom. His only “loss” — he finished third — came in Beaver Creek in December. (Again, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships do not count for World Cup points.)
In his five GS wins, Hirscher has won by more than 1 second. This has been a tour de force. Yes, we root for Ted, but there is a time to tip your cap, and this is it.
Not only did Hirscher beat the heck out of everyone in GS, but Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud didn’t do much to make inroads on Hirscher’s overall lead in Saturday’s downhill. Jansrud finished 19th, worth 12 points, and needed so much more in a discipline in which Hirscher does not compete.
Hirscher is ahead of Jansrud, 1,128-940, with eight races left. Worse for Jansrud is that Hirscher has two sets of tech — Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, weekend after next, and Meribel — on the schedule.
To keep any hopes of the overall alive, Jansrud must pound it this weekend in the downhill and super-G. The good news is that the races are in Kvitfjell, Norway.
OK, so, why do we have a bee in our bonnet about American Marco Sullivan. He finished sixth in the Garmisch downhill?
That’s giant for him — and Sullivan, from Northern California, is Giants fan, but that’s not important right now.
To be eligible for the A Team of the U.S. Ski Team, and receive the funding that comes with, a racer over 27, and Marco turns 35 in April, must be in the top 30 of a discipline. A sixth-place finish equals 40 points, so Marco went from 32nd in the downhill points to 20th last weekend. That is big, people.
You may recall that fellow downhiller Steve Nyman, 33, started this season on the B Team, meaning that he had to fundraise $20,000 to compete. Nyman, with a win at Santa Caterina, Italy, among other good finishes has skied his way back onto the A-Team for next year.
Here’s hoping the same happens to Marco.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.