With Vonn out, stars shine at ’13 Worlds | VailDaily.com

With Vonn out, stars shine at ’13 Worlds

France's gold medal winner Tessa Worley, center, is flanked by Slovenia's silver medal winner Tina Maze, left, and Austria's bronze medalist Anna Fenninger during the victory ceremony of the women's giant slalom at the Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, in 2013.
AP | AP

2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championship results

Women

Downhill

1. Marion Rolland, France; 2. Nadia Fanchini, Italy; 3. Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Germany.

Super-G

1. Tina Maze, Slovenia; 2. Lara Gut, Switzerland; 3. Julia Mancuso, U.S.A

Giant slalom

1. Tessa Worley, France; 2. Tina Maze, Slovenia; 3. Anna Fenninger, Austria.

Slalom

1. Mikaela Shiffrin, U.S.A.; 2. Michaela Kirchgasser, Austria; Frida Hansdotter, Sweden

Super-combined

1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Germany; 2. Tina Maze, Slovenia; 3. Nicole Hosp, Austria.

Editor’s note: Vail/Beaver Creek is hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 2-15. The following story is part of a series previewing the World Championships.

VAIL — Not that anyone would wager money on ski racing, but going into the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, if there were one American woman upon which to bet it was Lindsey Vonn.

With 16 World Cup titles to that point, Olympic gold and World Championships golds in her pocket, it seemed like a good bet.

Vonn never finished a race, but the U.S. Women’s Ski Team did not leave Schladming without a nice haul.

A look back at the last World Championships for the women of the World Cup.

Vonn goes down

The 2013 Worlds started disastrously as Vonn had a horrendous crash in the super-G. Feb. 5, 2013’s crash, which tore her ACL and MCL and fractured her tibia in her right leg, remains a story line to this day for the 2015 World Championships here.

Vonn attempted a comeback for the 2013-14 season with an eye on the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where she hoped to defend her downhill gold. Instead, she had a mishap in training at Copper Mountain in November.

Downplaying that injury, Vonn skipped the Raptor test event at Beaver Creek, the first races on the women’s course for 2015 Worlds, during Thanksgiving week in November. She tried to return to the tour up in Lake Louise, Alberta, where she has experienced the most success in her career — 14 wins at that point. She finished 40th and 11th in the downhills there and fifth in the super-G.

Having disclosed that she had partially torn her ACL in training in Copper, Vonn bagged the rest of the 2013-14 season and had surgery on Jan. 15.

Vonn returned to the World Cup this season at Lake Louise and won in her second start at Lake Lindsey, career win No. 15 there, and finished second in the super-G. She won again in the downhill in Val d’Isere, France, on Saturday.

The most prolific racer in American ski racing history appears to be back and primed to make an impact at the 2015 World Championships on her home snow.

History for Maze

As for the rest of the women’s super-G, Slovenia’s Tina Maze won the race, a part of an unparalleled season in World Cup history. Vonn or no Vonn, Maze racked up a record 2,414 points. (The men’s record for a season remains Hermann Maier’s 2,000 in the 1999-2000 season.)

While the World Championships do not count for World Cup statistics with regards to win totals or points, there was no denying Maze’s dominance. Aside from her super-G triumph at Worlds as well as silver in both the super-combined and GS, Maze won 11 times on the World Cup in the 2012-13 season and picked up World Cup titles in the overall, GS, super-G and super-combined and was second in the circuit’s other two disciplines, downhill and slalom.

Maze was understandably hard-pressed to come anywhere close to those accomplishments in 2013-14, scoring “only” 964 points, good for fourth in the overall, yet the Slovenian still triumphed during the Olympics with golds in the downhill and the super-G.

Maze has started 2014-15 quickly with wins in Levi, Finland, (slalom), Are, Sweden, (giant slalom) and Lake Louise (downhill), and she likely will be among the names to know come February.

Surprising and not so surprising

The World Championships always have a surprise winner and, for the women, that was definitely France’s Marion Rolland in the downhill. Then 31, she had never won on the World Cup and had only two podiums on her resume.

Rolland topped Italy’s Nadia Fanchini and Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch. The German was not a surprise winner in combined. Hoefl-Riesch, a multi-Olympic, Worlds and World Cup champion, retired after the 2013-14 season.

France’s Tessa Worley made herself a two-time medalist in GS with gold in Schladming. (She was third in Worlds in 2011 in Garmisch, Germany.)

A look at the women’s podiums in 2013 reveals some names, which it might be prudent to file away:

• Lara Gut, of Switzerland, was second in the super-G. Now 23, Gut tore up Raptor in the test event for 2015 Worlds with wins in downhill and super-G. She won the World Cup title in super-G last season and is already in the win column in that discipline this season.

• Anna Fenninger, of Austria, took bronze in the GS. All of 25, she seems to be next in the line of Austrian greats. While eight of her nine wins (as of Dec. 11) are in GS, she’s starting to see results in the speed events, including a gold medal in the 2014 Olympic super-G.

• Nicole Hosp, of Austria, finished third in the super-combined in what might have been seen as a farewell to a great career. However, Hosp won the Aspen slalom in November this season, her first win since 2008.

• And American Julia Mancuso dropped into third in super-G. Perpetually in Vonn’s shadow, all Mancuso does is win medals at the Olympics and Worlds. Again, Olympic and Worlds results do not count toward the World Cup, but Mancuso probably doesn’t care because she had more medals from those first two events (nine) than career wins on tour (seven).

And the new kid

Now, Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin seems like the veteran, so it’s easy to forget that she was a talented, but unproven, prospect going into the 2012-13 season.

At 16, Shiffrin captured her first podium on Dec. 29, 2011, her only trip to those sacred steps before the 2012-13 season.

She picked up her first three World Cup wins in advance of Schladming, but was she really ready for the big show?

Apparently, yes.

Just shy of turning 18, Shiffrin won the Worlds slalom over Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser and Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

And it only got better from there. In addition to a world championship, she won the World Cup slalom title in 2012-13 and 2013-14 with nine World Cup wins during that stretch. Oh, yeah, she also won the Olympic slalom gold in Sochi in 2014.

Before the Olympics, Shiffrin made her Raptor debut in 2013 in GS — there was no slalom — and finished second, her best result in that discipline at that point.

She opened the 2014-15 season with her first GS win in Soelden, Austria, and will enter the 2015 Worlds as one of the biggest stars in the skiing world.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.