Less downhill gives tech skiers boost
Start for Birds of Prey an area where speed skiers could have thrivedBy Ian CroppDaily Sports WriterBEAVER CREEK – What a difference 650 feet makes.When the Birds of Prey downhill was shortened by 650 feet of course length for a weather start in Thursday’s super combined race, technical racers gained an immediate advantage.”If you make it shorter, it’s always better for slalom skiers because then they lose less time,” said Sweden’s Markus Larsson.
The shorter course provided an even larger advantage for technical skiers considering terrain omitted. The area from the normal start to the weather start is almost all at a nine-degree grade, making it the flattest part of the course.”The top 30 seconds is dead flat,” said American Ted Ligety, who won a gold medal in the combined at the 2006 Torino games. “I was a second-and-a-half out there (during Wednesday’s downhill training) and I’m more than a second-anda half out (after Thursday’s downhill), so with the upper start, I’d be three seconds out now. It definitely helps me out a lot with that lower start. It’s a lot more technical when you start on the (weather start) and you can arc everything.”With a normal downhill start on the Birds of Prey, skiers need to do a lot of gliding, which isn’t the forte of technical skiers”They don’t know how to glide. They are little guys,” said American Steve Nyman, who is more of a speed skier. “I’m big, so I can make up seconds on them (in flats).”Winner’s circleSecond-place finisher Marc Berthod of Switzerland, who was fifth in his downhill run and seventh in his slalom run, said he benefited from the shorter downhill course.
“I think so,” Berthod said. “I’m not so good when it’s flat. I’m better on steeps.”Winner Aksel Lund Svindal, who excels at all events, didn’t know if the shortened start worked to his advantage.”I’m not sure. It depends on how you’re skis are running that day,” Svindal said. “You don’t know until you come down to the finish.”Svindal had the 12th best downhill run, and would have liked to have raced the full course.”I definitely think we should have that top part in there because it makes it a complete downhill,” Svindal said. “From the (shortened start), it’s pretty much technical the whole way. There’s a flat section in the middle, but that all depends on how much speed you carry from the technical portion before that. With the flats on top, it makes it so you have to be good at everything. I prefer that.”Although slalom racers had an advantage with the start, there is a built-in disadvantage in that speed event are run first in the super combined.
“If you start with the downhill, then it’s tougher for the slalom skiers because if you aren’t in the top 30 after the first run, there’s no chance. But if you start with slalom, it’s the same with downhillers,” Larsson said.By the numbersOf Thursday’s top-10 finishers, seven skiers were considered technical, two were speed and one was all-around. Only three of the top 10 were in that position after their downhill run. None of the top 10 finished any worse than 12th in slalom.There were 68 racers who started, 10 of whom didn’t finish the downhill and 10 of whom were disqualified from the downhill. Eight racers who finished the downhill didn’t start slalom, while 11 who finished downhill didn’t finish the slalom. One racer was disqualified from the slalom.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.