Canadian wins shortened Aspen downhill
December 8, 2007
ASPEN ” America’s downhill belonged to Canada.
Vancouver’s Britt Janyk recorded her first World Cup win Saturday and overtook Vail’s Lindsey Vonn in the downhill standings on a day when weather once again wreaked havoc. Just 30 of 56 competitors completed an abbreviated Ruthie’s course on Aspen Mountain.
Race officials called off the race because of flat light, persistent precipitation and fog; 19 racers didn’t get the chance to run, two crashed and four others opted not to compete.
And while the snow fell, America’s podium drought here did not. American Lindsey Vonn, who posted the two fastest times during training runs Wednesday and Thursday, wound up finishing fourth in 1 minute, 14.68 seconds. Kristina Koznick was the last U.S. skier to podium here when, in 2004, she finished third in a slalom.
Janyk, who started sixth, finished in 1:14.17; Austrians Marlies Schild (1:14.59) and Renate Goetschl (1:14.63) finished second and third, respectively.
“Weather is weather and, unfortunately for us, it snowed this much,” Vonn said. “I’m not good at skiing powder, I’m from Minnesota … I feel badly that I couldn’t show my stuff to the home crowd.”
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Vonn and a speed-happy U.S. female contingent were expected to do well here. Instead, just two Americans finished in the top 16 and one ” Kaylin Richardson ” did not finish. Leanne Smith and Libby Ludlow were expected to run 44th and 48th, respectively, but never made it to the start gate.
“You were OK if you stayed on track,” said Julia Mancuso, who was 16th. “You hit a lot of soft snow if you were off line.”
Austria’s Alexandra Meissnitzer, racing 13th, veered off line as she approached the second gate, tumbled and was thrown sideways into the safety netting. Austrian Nicole Hosp, who is currently second to teammate Schild in the chase for the overall, was supposed to follow Meissnitzer but decided to pull out; all four of the racers who opted not to compete were Austrians.
The race was delayed for nearly 20 minutes while ski patrol attended to Meissnitzer and transported her off the mountain.
While she said the crash didn’t faze her, Vonn admitted that she contemplated withdrawing.
“When [Hosp] pulled out, it caused quite a commotion at the start. I asked myself, ‘Is this worth it?'” she added. “I wasn’t confident. It was difficult with the flat light, and you can’t see how deep the snow is until you’re in it.
“[Meissnitzer] fell at the second gate, so you didn’t have to go fast to crash.”
Richardson wandered from her line, became disoriented and skied off course, but managed to remain on her skis.
“It’s difficult because in these conditions you have to be that much more aggressive,” she said. “I made a tactical mistake. I got in some bumps, was a little confused and [turned] too early. I’m lucky I pulled it off.”
France’s Anne-Sophie Barthet veered off course and landed awkwardly, reportedly dislocating a knee cap.
She was the last to compete.
“When it’s that soft it’s scary and, as an athlete, you have to use your brain and know when to back off,” said American Resi Stiegler, who finished 24th. “I was skiing like a 2-year-old midway down. I was just trying to get down.”
While much of the field struggled to complete a clean run or impact the leaderboard, Janyk reveled in conditions she said reminded her of skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia (see related story).
“I walked the course for inspection and started smiling,” she said. “… I had a mental edge. I feel comfortable in these conditions.”
That comfort has resulted in two strong results during the early season’s North American swing. Janyk finished second to Vonn in the season’s first downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“I was quite nervous coming here because I had set the bar so high,” Janyk said. “I’m so happy to come out the winner today. Against this great competition it’s not easy.”