Women's Downhill: Vail, Colorado
Sometimes it almost doesn't seem fair. The women's Austrian team is simply dominating the speed events in the World Alpine Ski Championships. As one journalist put it, maybe the Austrian women should go race against the men.
After finishing 1-2-3 in the super-G on Wednesday, the Austrians did it one time better, sweeping the podium in Sunday's downhill and then adding 4th place for good measure.
Renate Goetschl, the World Cup downhill leader coming into the two-week World Alpine Ski Championships, beat her teammates and pasted the rest of the field in a clean run down Vail's rolling International downhill course with a blistering time of 1:48.20 to take the gold.
Pre-race favorite Alexandra Meissnitzer was flat, by Austrian standards. The super-G champion was 4th, .27 seconds off Goetschl's winning time. The nearest challenger was Germany's Regina Haeusl, .72 seconds back in 5th place, an eternity in a downhill ski race.
"We have three on the podium again. We had good stuff today," said Goetschl, a silver medalist in both the super-G and the women's combined. "This week is great, unforgettable. On the first part I was fast. I skied really well. I knew it was a close race and I knew I had to catch Michaela and Stefanie. I didn't feel slow and knew I had to fight. I couldn't ski faster on the last part."
The Austrians aren't in a zone, they're at another level entirely. They swept the super-G, they swept the downhill. What's next? Going into the technical events later this week, the Austrians have a strong team, but not one that's as strong as the speed team. Realizing their moment in the Vail sun was drawing to an end, the Austrians came into yesterday's marquee race with dreams of another podium sweep dancing through their ski helmets.
"I'm happy with the silver medal. I was fast on the top but lost it in the lower part. That's life," said Dorfmeister, 3rd in the super-G. "I had a dream last night I was second. Today it was very fast. You need luck to win a gold medal."
No one's been able to break the Austrians' stranglehold in the speed events. Pre-race challengers Isolde Kostner of Italy, a consistent skier with three 2nd places in World Cup downhill racing this year, could only manage 9th at 1.29 seconds back while Germany's Hilde Gerg, 2nd in the World Cup downhill standings, raced to a disappointing 12th at 1.46 seconds back.
Under sunny skies, racers were ripping the rolling International course, crossing the tape 3 seconds faster than training runs earlier in the week. American Megan Gerety nailed the best US women's team result so far in the Worlds by skiing to 8th at 1.10 seconds back.
"I got off the course a little bit and backed off when I should have attacked," said Gerety. "I got behind a little bit on Hewey, Dewey and Louie (three jumps near the bottom of the course). I had a hard time staying ahead of the course at the bottom."
Gerety likes Vail's International course, where she's finished 5th twice and scored four of her career top-10 finishes on the rolling, steep course that plunges down the front of Vail Mountain. When she woke Sunday morning and saw the sun was shining, Gerety knew it was a good omen.
"I was stoked. It made my day," said Gerety, 27, starting in the 4th position out of field of 35 racers. "The course was skiing a lot faster today than in training and I was catching huge air off the rollers. I started getting behind the course a little bit. I was a little upset because I knew I had a good run. But it was my best run of the week, so it came at a good time."
Kirsten Clark, 21, roared to her career-best downhill finish at 16th at 1.88 seconds off the winning pace.
"The jumps were carrying you further than in training because of race day," said Clark, the defending US national downhill champion. "I turned well on the bottom half of the course. That's my specialty. I lost a little time on the top."
The women take a break until Thursday for the giant slalom race at Vail.
Dorfmeister Musters Fastest Time
Megan Gerety was the top US finisher in 15th at 1.81 seconds back. The women compete in the combined Friday and will resume downhill training Saturday for Sunday's race.
Cavagnoud Injured in Training
The injury comes as a blow to Cavagnoud, who won back-to-back World Cup events in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, winning her first-career downhill race Jan. 22, and then following it up with her first-career super-G event the next day. She came into Vail ranked 3rd in the super-G and 5th in the downhill.
Austria's Stephanie Schuster finished first in Tuesday's downhill training with a time of 1:52.43, an excellent result for the young Austrian ranked 20th in World Cup downhill standings. Austrian Renate Goethe, first in the World Cup downhill standings, paced to 6th in 1:53.77 in the first of three days of downhill training on Vail's International course.
Competitors spend three days of real-speed training on downhill courses, the only discipline that allows on-course training. In the slalom, giant slalom and super-G, racers only get on-snow course inspections one hour before the race.
Kirsten Clark was fastest among four Americans, crossing the line in 1:56.63 for the 26th fastest time. Aspen's Katy Monahan, 26, the top-ranked American in the super-G at 22nd overall, did not start because she is nursing a sore back and wants to compete in Wednesday's make-up date of the postponed super-G race.
The women will complete their second day of downhill training following Wednesday's super-G, which was called off Monday due to heavy snow.
Andrew Hood, Mountain Zone Correspondent
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