The ups-and-downs over a two-day span were breathtaking for the U.S. Ski as the 2013 International Ski Federation (FIS) World Alpine Ski Championships opened a 12-day stay Monday, Feb. 5 at Schladming, Austria:
Lindsey Vonn went down. And Ted Ligety claimed a gold medal.
First, there was the devastating knee injury and broken leg suffered by the greatest of all American female skiers, 28-year-old Vonn, about 40 seconds into her super giant slalom run Tuesday. Doctors confirmed that the most successful alpine skier in U.S. history tore two knee ligaments and broke her leg in a serious crash during the race.
The accident occurred a little more than a year before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. It ended the season of Vonn, who had won six Audi FIS World Cup races this season and improved her career World Cup win total to 59, just three short of the all-time women’s record.
Vonn, from Vail, Co., had posted the fastest first interval and was having a strong run when she went down off a jump midway down the course, the U.S. Ski Team reported. She was immediately attended to by race medical officials and transported by helicopter, as is standard protocol, to a nearby hospital where she was evaluated and released.
According to U.S. Ski Team Medical Director Kyle Wilkens, Vonn suffered a torn ACL and MCL in her right knee and a lateral tibial plateau fracture. She will be out for the remainder of this season but is expected to return to racing for the 2013-14 Audi FIS World Cup season and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, the ski team added.
It was a very challenging day with fog delaying the start for three-and-a-half hours and the race ending around 4:00 p.m. after a series of long mid-race delays—including the 12 to 15 minutes when Vonn was attended to by medical personnel and airlifted to a local hospital.
Yet Julia Mancuso, 28, of Squaw Valley, Ca., starting several spots behind Vonn, kept it together after the tough news and during the long course delay. She won the fifth FIS Alpine Ski World Championships medal of her career taking the super G bronze medal.
One day later, on Wednesday, 28-year-old Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah used his giant slalom skills to improbably win his first super G race at any race level. Ligety captured his third World Championship medal and second gold at worlds. His previous-best SG was second place four years ago in a World Cup race at Val d’Isere, France.
The world event took a day off Thursday. Here is the remaining schedule:
Feb. 8, women's super combined.
Feb. 9, men’s downhill.
Feb. 10, women’s downhill.
Feb. 11, men’s super combined.
Feb. 12, Nations Team Event.
Feb. 14, women’s giant slalom.
Feb. 15, men’s giant slalom.
Feb. 16, women’s slalom.
Feb. 17, men’s slalom.
Ligety pulls off surprise SG win
Twelve years after American Daron Rahlves stole super G gold from the Austrians at the 2001 World Championships in St. Anton, Ligety did the same Wednesday at Schladming.
Ligety used his giant slalom skills to take command on the steep bottom section of the course at the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships to take a two-tenths of a second win over France's Gautier De Tessieres. Heavily favored Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway claimed bronze.
Running 10th in flat light, Ligety knifed the bottom section of the course using his technical GS skills to move into the lead. It was the first super G gold for the U.S. since Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H. won in Bormio, Italy in 2005. Miller had tied for silver two years earlier in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Ca. won in St. Anton, Austria in 2001.
Ligety’s previous World Championship medals were: Bronze, 2009, Val d'Isere, giant slalom; and gold, 2011, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, giant slalom.
Said Ligety, “I thought actually I had a good chance here because my super G is going well. But knowing this hill, I knew it would be good for someone like me who is more of a GS type skier.
“I put a lot of risk especially on the bottom where it was steeper. The whole way I was just trying to link up turns. I saw a lot of guys sliding the top of the turn I knew I was capable of making it cleaner. The bottom I knew I could make up time—it suited my technique.
“I took a lot of risk. It was a good day.”
About the effects of Vonn’s injury, Ligety said, “That’s a part of ski racing and if you let it get to you, you have no chance in ski racing. You’re bummed out for her but you just have to move on from that and know she’ll be back strong next year. As a ski racer, you can’t let that effect you.”
Sasha Rearich, U.S. Men’s head coach said, “Ted has been skiing great. All season he has been charging—clean skiing and with the confidence to take it down the hill at super G speeds. We had a great training camp leading into here. He came in skiing with confidence and executed great skiing. When you put those things together—why not
“The key is his first his GS foundation and two, his fitness because of how hard he worked this summer. He was able to able to hang tight with the best gliders on top and put some time on them on the bottom.”
Pre-race favorite Aksel Lund Svindal said, “I saw Ted’s run. He went full risk all the way and made no mistakes.”
On Tuesday, Mancuso also staged a full speed attack through fog, soft snow and deep ruts to win super G bronze on the opening day of the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in Schladming.
It was her fifth career World Championships medal, third in super G and a women's record eighth major championship medal. Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall and super G leader Tina Maze of Slovenia captured gold with Lara Gut of Switzerland silver.
Mancuso’s previous World Championship medals: Bronze, 2005, Bormio/Santa Caterina, Italy, super G; bronze, 2005, Bormio/Santa Caterina, giant slalom; silver, 2007, Are, super combined; and silver, 2011, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, super G.
Said Mancuso afterward, “I think that might’ve been one of the most difficult races I’ve ever been in. It was a really long course and a lot of hurry up and wait. I didn’t know I’d be so tired at the end of the run. Every time, no matter what kind of run, I know I could have a much better run. But to finish on the podium is kind of all you can ask for.
“Yeah, that (Vonn’s injury and the wait) was hard. I think just with a long day everything, even your mental game, can be affected. I knew the course well, but my reactions weren't totally on but I guess they were on close enough to notice that I was going on the wrong side of the gate. Then, I think that just made me a little out there for that compression, but I made it to the finish.
“I know I can ski really fast and I’m doing really well in training right now, too. I just want to have a great run and I want that gold medal! So, that's kind of what I’m working on. Of course, I’m happy with a third but I want to get the gold.”
Women’s head coach Alex Hoedlmoeser said, “It was amazing how Julia attacked the course knowing that Lindsey had been hurt. She is an amazing professional. No matter what the conditions, she prepares herself for the race and today was a great example. It’s a real credit to her tenacity and ability to adjust to the challenge.”