Zahrobska wins Aspen slalom; Vail’s Vonn out in first run
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – An icy slalom course that gave Vail’s Lindsey Vonn and every other American so much trouble Sunday suited Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic just fine.
Vonn skied off-course about a quarter of the way into the opening run, joining all six of her U.S. teammates on the sideline. The U.S. Ski Team said it was the first time since January 2008 that American women entered a World Cup slalom and none reached the second round.
“It’s just a little bit too icy for the girls. I don’t think it does anyone a service to have it this difficult. It doesn’t look good on TV,” said Vonn, who lives in nearby Vail.
“It’s essentially like pond ice,” she added. “It’s like ice skating, and it becomes – it’s not ski racing anymore.”
While Vonn complained about the conditions, Zahrobska took advantage to win the Aspen slalom for the second year in a row. She finished Sunday’s two runs in 1 minute, 43.45 seconds.
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Marlies Schild of Austria was the runner-up, 0.58 back. Schild recently returned to the World Cup circuit, 13 months after breaking her left leg in a training crash.
“It’s a big surprise,” said Schild, who won two medals at the 2006 Turin Olympics. “I had a hard year the last year, with my injury, with everything. I did not know if it would work again as well as it did before. It worked really good today.”
Kathrin Zettel of Austria was third, one day after finishing second in a giant slalom.
Zahrobska called the course “really icy,” then added, “but I like it.” She’s never won a World Cup race anywhere but Aspen.
Vonn, meanwhile, owns 22 World Cup race wins, along with the last two overall titles. But she had a rough weekend at the only U.S. stop for the women’s circuit.
In Saturday’s giant slalom, her right ski hit a rock early in the first run, and while Vonn stayed upright and made it to the bottom of the course, her time was good enough only for 39th place. The top 30 move on to the second run.
After that disappointment, Vonn went out later in the day to practice for Sunday’s slalom, but things didn’t go any better. This time, she skidded out in the top half of the course, one of 24 racers who didn’t finish the opening run.
The other six American entrants completed the course, with poor placings: No. 34 Kaylin Richardson, No. 35 Hailey Duke, No. 37 Julia Mancuso, No. 39 Sarah Schleper, No. 40 Sterling Grant, No. 44 Julia Ford.
Not a performance that will inspire confidence moving forward, particularly with the Vancouver Olympics less than three months away.
“Embarrassing,” U.S. Ski Team women’s coach Jim Tracy said. “No excuses. We just didn’t ski the way we were supposed to ski, simple as that.”
While racers from various countries echoed Vonn’s concerns about the state of the slope, Tracy discarded that explanation for his skiers’ performance, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the course.”