Vonn enters slalom; Ligety gets bronze; Miller DNF
VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) ” Three very different days for America’s three top skiers at the world championships:
“Lindsey Vonn declared herself ready for Saturday’s slalom with a special splint on her right thumb. She needed surgery after cutting a tendon on a broken champagne bottle.
“Ted Ligety won the bronze medal in a giant slalom won by Carlo Janka of Switzerland. Ligety’s medal was the first by U.S. men at these worlds.
“Bode Miller crashed out in the second run for the second straight race.
Vonn made her final decision after gate training Friday.
“She did three or four runs and it was actually quite good,” U.S. women’s head coach Jim Tracy said. “They made some slight adjustments to help her grip her pole a bit better, but she’s ready to go.”
Vonn’s mishap came during a party celebrating her downhill victory Monday. She opened the championships by winning the super-G last week.
Vonn traveled to Innsbruck, Austria, for surgery and returned to Val d’Isere on Wednesday. She missed Thursday’s giant slalom and spent two days testing various splints.
Ligety has broken his hand a couple times and had countless thumb injuries.
“The biggest thing is when you cross block, the vibrations there, it hurts a lot,” he said. “Then when you do that you’re a little tentative on how you block the gate and you don’t put your hand down to save yourself.
“Those kind of things are tough but I think she did it high enough on her thumb that the vibration shouldn’t be too bad, but we’ll see. Nobody knows but Lindsey how it feels.”
Ligety, the defending World Cup champion in GS, was ninth after the opening run but moved into medal contention with the fastest second run.
“I don’t normally like to ski mad; it’s not as much fun,” he said. “But I was definitely more inspired. I was a little bit (disappointed) with how first run went. It was just frustrating, and kind of embarrassing. I had to prove something that second run and I think I did.”
Until now, Ligety has not had a good worlds. He drew laughs for his fall in the super-G, sliding down the steep and icy slope on his backside for several hundred yards. In the super-combi, he was disqualified because his bindings were slightly too high.
“I think part of being a good athlete and ski racer is just letting that stuff roll off your shoulders and not worrying about it too much,” Ligety said. “I just stopped focusing on it, didn’t really worry about it, and focused on the next race.”
As soon as Ligety was disqualified, the U.S. team sent him to train with the Swiss skiers in Veysonnaz.
“I think that was a good move,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said. “He cleared his mind, got away, got some good training, and I think it paid off today.”
In Veysonnaz, Ligety trained with Friday’s winner. Janka had a two-run time of 2 minutes, 18.82 seconds down the Face de Bellevarde course. Benjamin Raich of Austria finished second, 0.71 behind, and Ligety was third, 0.99 back.
Maybe Miller, who races independently from the U.S. team, could have also benefited from off-site GS training. He trains least in that discipline.
“When you’re skiing all five events something has to give and GS is what gives during the season for us,” said Miller’s personal coach, Forest Carey. “Expectations going into today were pretty low.”
Miller was 17th after the opening run and nearly sat on his skis in his second trip down. He lost control and came to a stop, shaking his head as always.
“I went on a ski that I knew was pretty risky. I had never tried it on this hill or on snow like this,” said Miller, the 2003 world champion in GS. “The turns were much nicer on the top, but as soon as I got on the pitch, when it hooks up on the tail it just sticks like crazy, and obviously on this hill there’s no room for that.”
Earlier this week, Miller said he was considering retirement at the end of the season and skipping next year’s Vancouver Olympics.
“I’ve heard him say it for the last four or five years, so I don’t read too much into it,” Carey said. “I don’t think he knows and I think he was just saying that. I think it’s 50-50. Either way it would not surprise me. If he’s skiing he’ll do the Olympics. If he’s not, he won’t.”