It was a World Cup weekend when America’s greatest alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn suffered another setback in her drive for the Olympics.
Yet it was also a weekend when Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather moved into the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup women’s lead at Val d’Isere, Fra.
Weirather, 24, daughter of World Cup stars Harti Weirather of Austria and Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein, won the first giant slalom of her six-year World Cup career Sunday and leap-frogged past Lara Gut, 22, of Switzerland in the overall standings for a 595-568 lead.
It was the third World Cup career win and 13th podium for Weirather, the 2006 Olympian who missed out on a second trip in 2010 to the Winter Games with a knee injury that wiped out her 2010-11 racing seasons.
Weirather, whose best World Cup overall season finish was ninth two years ago, is burning it up this season with six podium finishes including a super giant slalom win at St. Moritz, Switz. Dec. 14 and a fourth place in Saturday’s Val d’Isere women’s downhill.
Four-time World Cup overall champ Vonn, 29, of Vail, Co. was one of four Yanks who didn’t finish Saturday’s Val d’Isere women’s downhill run with fresh snow covering the Oreiller-Killy speed track.
It was Vonn’s first race since competing two weeks ago and leading all U.S. racers with an 11th place DH finish at Lake Louise. The Olympic downhill queen was rattled in the midsection of the course, pulled up and skied to the finish.
She said afterwards, “I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt. It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately.
“I’m going to stick to a similar plan that I was on before. I just need to be more careful of how many races I do. I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics.”
Vonn, a 59-time World Cup winner, sustained injuries in a downhill training fall Nov. 19 at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain, Colo. Vonn partially tore one of her reconstructed knee ligaments.
She first injured her right knee during a high-speed accident in the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships SG race Feb. 5 at Schladming, Aust.
Swiss Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden won for the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup victory of her career Saturday. Reigning overall champ Tina Maze of Slovenia was second.
In Sunday’s giant slalom won by Weirather, 18-year-old U.S. star Mikaela Shiffrin finished a solid eighth to close the first half of the Alpine World Cup giant slalom season. In 12th after the first run, Shiffrin produced a flawless final run to jump four spots for her sixth career giant slalom top-10.
The women’s tour returns Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 28-29 at Lienz, Aust.—site of Shiffrin's first World Cup podium in 2011—with giant slalom/slalom.
Ligety, Miller continue to lead U.S. men
Ted Ligety, 29, of Park City, Utah and Bode Miller, 36, of Franconia, N.H. continued to lead U.S. men on the upswing to the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia in February.
Two-time giant slalom world champion and four-time World Cup title winner Ligety, 29, bounced back from last week’s DNF at the Val d’Isere giant slalom to climb Sunday’s GS podium at Alta Badia, Italy with a third place, just .58 seconds off the winning run.
Two-time World Cup overall king Marcel Hirscher, 24, of Austria posted his second straight GS victory and moved closer to current World Cup overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal, 30, of Norway in the overall ranks. Svindal has 530 points, Hirscher 435 and third-place Ligety 329. American Bode Miller has climbed to sixth place with 230 points.
2010 Olympian and two-time defending World Cup overall king Hirscher posted his 21st World Cup triumph (9th GS) and third this season. The 2013 world slalom gold medalist has 50 podiums in seven seasons on the tour.
Midway through the eight-event Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom season, Ligety and Hirscher have each won a pair of races, however Hirscher leads the discipline standings 320-260 over Ligety.
Miller posted a pair of solid results Friday and Saturday in speed races at Val Gardena, Italy.
In Friday’s super giant slalom, Miller charged through difficult visibility on upper half of the Saslong SG and made an incredibly athletic move at the final gate to lead the U.S. with eighth place.
Svindal, the 2010 Olympic SG gold medalist and four-time world champion, won for the third time since 2009 to further pad his World Cup overall lead. It was his 24th World Cup victory (12 SG) and third this season. He was the 2007 and 2009 World Cup overall king.
On Saturday, five-time Olympic medalist Miller continued to build speed on the Road to Sochi with fifth place in the 46th Saslong Classic downhill at Val Gardena.
The men's tour moves to Bormio, Italy for the post-Christmas downhill Dec. 29.