There is no crying in ski racing: Tuesday’s super-G
It really did seem that Slovenia’s Tina Maze sucked out all the air from Beaver Creek, knocking American Lindsey Vonn out of first place at Tuesday’s women’s super-G at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek.
The crowd, if possible, got even more silent after Austria’s Anna Fenninger blazed into the finish area with what would be the winning time.
Fenninger, Maze and Vonn is the first podium of the Championships, and, a great one.
That’s the defending Olympic super-G champion, the defending World Championship winner in super-G and the most-prolific female super-G racer ever — all separated by 0.15-hundredth of a second.
The notebook from Tuesday’s race:
• No crying in your beer or other beverage of choice, American race fans. As one who watched the 1999 Worlds here in their entirety and saw Team USA get blanked, we’re on the board! One is not meant to use an exclamation point, but it’s been 26 years since an American won on home snow, and I was a junior in high school then.
Vonn battled the wind early, and it likely cost her the race. (There is no whining in ski racing. It’s an outdoor sport. Vonn said as much during the post-race news conference.) What was impressive was that she gained speed on the lower portions of the course, where others kept falling behind further. Vonn was in 17th place after the first time check, 0.61 seconds behind Maze. She blitzed the second half of the course, making up nearly half-a-second, something that bodes well for downhill on Friday.
• Again, American race fans, you saw the first American to capture a Worlds medal on home snow since Tamara McKinney won bronze in slalom on Feb. 7, 1989, here. Everyone always forgets this medal because McKinney won gold in the combined on Feb. 2, 1989.
• Back to 1999, the U.S.A.’s best finish was Chad Fleischer in sixth in the super-G. Some guy named Bode Miller, then 21, took eighth in the slalom and there was much rejoicing.
• Good gosh, could we please see another picture of Tiger Woods on the Jumbotron? First thought — the Worlds are about Lindsey, not Tiger. Second thought — it’s not like we haven’t seen a celebrity here before. Get over it, whoever’s choosing the shots. Third thought — go make the cut at Torrey Pines, Tiger. (I mean that with goodwill. I want to see him come back.) Fourth thought — put Tiger on the video board if he’s playing golf here in the summer. I’d pay to see Tiger play at this altitude.
• How seriously is skiing taken in Austria? Fenninger’s news conference went out live in Austria.
• True story: Fenninger’s first win actually came at Worlds in 2011 in Garmisch, Germany, in the super-combined. Sometimes, Worlds produces a “what-the-heck?” moment with a surprise winner. Fenninger clearly wasn’t a “what the heck?’ since she’s gone onto win nine times on the World Cup.
• In a sign of what may be coming, of those nine World Cup wins, only one is in super-G — the rest are GS. Before Tuesday, Fenninger’s super-G results this season had been eighth, second, second and second.
• Scary thought: Fenninger is just 25.
• Maze? Terrific start for her. During her news conference, a reporter brought up Norway’s Lasse Kjus, who won medals in all five disciplines here in 1999 — two gold (downhill and super-G) and three silver (combined, GS and slalom).
If anyone — male or female — can duplicate Kjus’ five, it would be Maze, but … I don’t think so. That is just so tough with five races in two weeks.
• In some eyes, Maze had a bad season in 2013-14 with only 964 points. After all, she entered Worlds with 985 points already this season. Maze won only twice last season on tour, but managed to salvage the sewer pit of her year with Olympic golds in downhill and GS.
Last year was a “bad year” because she was simply otherworldly in 2012-13, scoring a record 2,414 points. The previous record was 2,000 by Hermann Maier in 1999-2000. By comparison, any season, which followed, was going to be “terrible.” (In 2012-13, she won 11 times on the tour and have a gold and two silvers at Worlds. How do you top that?)
The pressure is off Maze, and she’s skiing freely again. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
• As we write, surprisingly enough, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud is leading men’s downhill training. (Big shock! OK, that really didn’t require an exclamation point.) Cool to see Bode and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal — welcome back, gents — running well, too. Now, all we need is for it not to snow. (Yeah, right!)
Darn exclamation point.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.