Is giant slalom the toughest race of them all?
ASPEN “Lindsey Kildow had an easy explanation for her race-ending mistake in Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom in Aspen.
“I’m not a GS skier,” she said to summarize what happened near the end of her first run when she skied wide off a gate and almost stopped before sluggishly turning through the last few gates and missing the cut for the second run. This mistake was preceded by a crazed left turn around a gate in which Kildow hip-checked and raked her hand along the snow. Despite this, her run went smoothly. She was only 0.81 seconds back from the leader at the first interval.
But then the course worked its erratic nature on her.
“I went so far out of the course, there was no chance,” said the
21-year-old, whose best World Cup GS result was a ninth place last year in Maribor, Slovenia. “I still have to learn better tactics in GS. I don’t do well when the rhythm changes a lot. It’s something you have to work on. I really didn’t grow up skiing GS. Ever. Not even when I went to Vail.”
On your toes
Racers say that giant slalom is perhaps the discipline involving the most fitness and the utmost ability to be light on one’s feet. While there is more turning in slalom, the tempo is fast and steady, and gate placement is regular. In super-G, the speeds are high (around 70 mph), but racers have more time to adjust into turns between gates. In GS, racers juggle speeds of around 40 mph with furious turning between gates that isn’t regular and doesn’t typically allow for a simple rhythm.
“I’m skiing well in GS, but I don’t have that timing,” Kildow said. “You gotta be quick. In downhill and super G it’s different. In GS, you’re totally working yourself all the time on every turn. It’s a combination of power and fitness. Slalom is mostly just quickness and GS is a combination of super-G and slalom.”
Plus, racers said the courses at Aspen pose additional challenges to the typical approach in each discipline.
“In the super-G here, you really have to think a little bit more like GS than you do normally because this hill is very technical. You have to have short arcs and go for the gates more than you do normally. Coming into (the GS) today, I just wanted to attack everything,” said Anja Paerson of Sweden, who finished second in GS with a time of 1 minute 57.51 seconds, getting knocked off the top podium spot by winner Maria Jose Rienda of Spain (1:57.17).
The similarity between Aspen’s SG and GS courses didn’t help every racer Saturday. “The course is so tight today, the super G didn’t give me an advantage like I was hoping,” said 24th-place finisher Kristina Koznick, who was only one of two Americans (along with Julia Mancuso in 12th) to finish the race.
“My coach keeps telling me, for GS, everything’s in preparation for the Olympics,” Koz said. “You’d rather have it come together on that day than on any other.”
Practice makes perfect
Like Kildow, Koznick spent a lot more time training on the slalom course as a child than she did in GS. Focused training specifically in GS, competitors say, pays off on race day.
“I am learning a lot in super-G and sometimes slalom. But what’s more important for us is GS,” said Rienda, who, in addition to her win Saturday, finished 22nd in Friday’s SG.
“I work (and train) a lot with the GS more than the other disciplines.”
The Americans went directly from Friday’s SG race into GS training.
Still, the transition from one discipline to the other isn’t easy, especially when the SG course is still fresh on a racer’s mind.
Mancuso said that when she is racing back-to-back in different events, the previous day’s race unwittingly hammers through her imagination and subconsciousness when she goes to bed at night.
“It’s like a replay in my head before I go to sleep,” said Mancuso, who was the top American finisher Saturday. “I’m like, ‘Stop it. Stop it. I don’t want it.'”
Mancuso said the visions didn’t keep her up too late, and she was more or less ready to race on Saturday. Still, she said the adjustment between SG and GS is a tricky one.
“We did training before, so that helps you get into the rhythm of things,” she said. “But yeah, it’s kind of difficult going into GS. The skis are a little slower, but everything comes at you faster.”
Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.