Vail’s Vonn heavy favorite in World super-combi
VAIL, Colorado ” Vail’s Lindsey Vonn already achieved her goal for the world championships by winning her first gold medal. With Anja Paerson complaining of poor conditions and Maria Riesch bruised from a training crash, it’s tough to imagine the American not winning again in Friday’s super-combi.
The super-combi comprises one shortened downhill run and one slalom leg, and Vonn is the only skier to win World Cup races in both disciplines this season.
“Normally in World Cups if I do things well I’m at the top, but world championships are always a bit more difficult because everyone is attacking even more, because it’s only one race and you only have one chance,” Vonn said after winning Thursday’s downhill training run.
“I hope if I have two clean runs I can get another medal, but for sure if Anja skis well she can beat me, and Maria Riesch, too,” she added. “Nothing is a done deal. You still have to go out there and execute your plan.”
Paerson swept the super-G, downhill and super-combi races at her home worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago. She opened the 2009 worlds by missing a gate near the end of her super-G run and placed only 27th in downhill training Thursday.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Paerson has complained about the low visibility and lack of sunshine on the new Rhone-Alpes course, the most technical and twisty track the women have seen all season.
“I have to find something different for tomorrow,” Paerson said.
Riesch hurt her knee and bruised her back in a fall in downhill training Wednesday.
“(Super-combi) was the big race for me, and now after my crash it’s a bit different,” Riesch said. “I don’t feel so well. It’s OK, I don’t have too much pain, but I’m not 100 percent and my expectations are not that big anymore. Of course I’ll try for a medal but it’s going to be tough.”
Riesch won four straight slalom races this season and has also been on the podium in downhill, but she’s picking Vonn.
“The main favorite is Lindsey, of course, because she is dominating this downhill and then she’ll just need to ski down in slalom,” Riesch said. “It’s a really tough course and I think 70 percent of all the girls it’s too tough for them. She’s one of the only people doing clean turns and not slipping too much. You saw this in the super-G. Even though she had bad light she just killed it and won the race.”
There have been two World Cup super-combi races this season. Paerson won the first and Vonn took the second ahead of Kathrin Zettel of Austria.
While its top two skiers, Nicole Hosp and Marlies Schild, are injured, Austria could still provide Vonn’s biggest challenge. All four starters ” Zettel, Michaela Kirchgasser, Elisabeth Goergl and Anna Fenninger ” are accomplished all-around skiers.
Another possible challenger is Swiss teenager Lara Gut, who finished fifth in the super-combi in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in December and led downhill training Wednesday. Teammate Fabienne Suter was third in the St. Moritz super-combi.
Still, Vonn is the undisputed favorite, and she’s not even feeling too much pressure after opening the championships by winning the super-G for her first gold at a worlds or Olympics.
“I feel a lot more relaxed now. I feel like there is a little bit less pressure on me. Mostly I’m putting the pressure on myself,” the American said. “I’m already happy with the results from super-G and if I don’t win another gold medal I’ll be totally satisfied, but I’m hoping to be on the top step a couple more times.”