Welcome to Gravity our programme dedicated to downhill skiing. Coming up this week: the 65th victory in the World Cup for Lindsey Vonn. we foucus on the Maze/Fenninger duel, hear from our resident expert Franck Picard and the living legend Ingemar Stenmark.
But let’s begin with a double for Kjetil Jansrud – the Super G in Kvitfjell and the crystal globe in the same discipline.
This was the fourth successive time a Norwegian won the Super G crystal globe, “we really are the best,“quipped Kjetil Jansrud.
He took advantage of the soft snow conditions to triumph in one minute 37.44 seconds on home territory in Kvitfjell.
In the Super G standings he now leads his nearest rival Italy’s Domonik Paris by 123 points and can’t be caught with just one event left at the World Cup finals later this month.
In the overall standings his win means he is just 52 points behind three-times World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria. “I haven’t given up on the overall World Cup,” he said.
But give up is exactly what one of the favourites Hannes Reichelt had to do in the Super G. The Super G World Champion pulled up on the slopes after a tumble.
Second spot was taken by Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr who was 0.24 seconds behind winner Jansrud.
Mattias Mayer who clinched a double downhill and Super G last month was also a non-finisher. The Austrian was another favourite hoping to make up points in the chase for the crystal globe. Third place was taken by Canada’s Dustin Cook who was 0.33 seconds off the pace.
At the summit
She hadn’t won a race since the end of January and had gleaned a bronze medal at the World Championship on home snow in Beaver Creek. But Lindsay Vonn returned to winning ways in the Super G at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The American took the record number of World Cup victories by a woman to 65 with her win and it means the races for the overall globe and the Super G title remain undecided.
Lindsay Vonn admitted afterwards that her win just 0.20 second ahead of second placed Tina Maze had boosted her confidence and her belief she could still lift both Super G and downhill titles this year.
Tina Maze will of course have something to say about that as her battle with Anna Fenninger hots up. “I love this battle. I can’t sleep anymore. I’m so focused on my goals but I love it,” she told reporters after nudging ahead of rival Fenninger who had beaten her in the downhill on Saturday.
But the Austrian was off the pace in the Super G and had to be content with third. It means she surrendered 20 points to Tina Maze. The Slovenian now leads Fenninger by 44 points in the standings. With Lindsay Vonn 399 point behind it seems it’s a battle to the finish between Maze and Fenninger.
There was a premature end to the season for the German Viktoria Rebensburg runner up last month in the Giant Slalom and the end of a career for Frenchman Marrion Rolland, the downhill World Champion of 2013. The cause in each case was a knee injury following a fall. Alpine skiing is full of risks as Franck Pickard explains:
“It is a sport with speed and no protection except for the nets on the slopes and of course little to protect the body of a skier. So what you have is a direct confrontation with the mountain at speed. There are other phenomena too which means the skier is never safe from falling. It is a balancing act, 120, 130, 160 kilometres on two boards just trying to guide the edges of them.
Then there is the problem of visibility, snow, snow texture, the positioning of the gates. There are 36 parameters that will impact on you the second you fall.”
Let’s go back to Colorado, February 19, 1989. Ingemar Stenmark is approaching his 33rd birthday and is struggling to compete with the new generation on the slopes embodied by Alberto Tomba.
The Swede competes in the technical disciplines chasing his first success for two years. The skeptics call for him to retire – which he does several weeks later – as he is no longer the dominant force. Ten years earlier he had won with more than four seconds to spare. But on February 19 1989 the native of Lapland revived the good memories by winning the Giant slalom at Aspen. It was his 88th victory in the World Cup, a record which still stands.
Join us again next Sunday for another edition of Gravity and as usual I leave you with some sparkling images from the slopes – it’s snowtime.