Podium drought in Aspen continues for U.S. women | AspenTimes.com

Podium drought in Aspen continues for U.S. women

Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” In the moments after Saturday’s downhill on Aspen Mountain, Lindsey Vonn did little to suppress her frustration, labeling her fourth-place finish “about as bad as it can be.”

She might want to rethink that statement after Sunday’s slalom. Vonn, who was 18th after the first of two runs, was more than six seconds slower in the afternoon. She wound up 27th ” only teammate Kaylin Richardson did worse among competitors who finished both runs.

Vonn’s combined time of 1 minute, 43 seconds was almost nine seconds off of the pace set by winner Nicole Hosp of Austria.

“It was a little rough out there in some points,” Vonn said after her first run. “I got jammed in a rut. … Aspen has never been a good slalom hill for me.”

Or for most of the American contingent. Hailey Duke failed to qualify for a second run, Richardson fell on her second run (by the time she got to her feet and finished, she was 22.29 seconds behind), and Julia Mancuso was a lackluster 19th.

Jackson, Wyo., 22-year-old Resi Stiegler was an exception. She gave a modest crowd reason to cheer ” albeit briefly ” Sunday afternoon. Stiegler, the 21st to race in the second round, jumped into the lead after posting the fastest first split. Despite losing speed and posting a time that was more than two seconds slower than her morning run, Stiegler, who finished in 1:37.07, vaulted into second with nine racers left in the starting gate.

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She was bumped off the podium soon after and wound up eighth.

“I had awesome top splits.” Stiegler said. “Then I come down to the bottom and don’t know what I’m doing. For some reason, I was holding back.”

She was not the only American who couldn’t find her stride on Ruthie’s this weekend. As a result, the U.S. leaves Aspen with two top 10’s but no medals for a third straight year.

Since Kristina Koznick finished third in a 2004 slalom, Austrians have dominated here and Americans have been a hometown favorite, but not much of a factor. While recently retired Kirsten Clark and Vonn went 5-7 in a 2005 super G, Mancuso was the top American in the slalom (19th) and giant slalom (12th) that year.

In 2006 Vonn (16th), Mancuso (22nd) and Stiegler (25th) were the lone Americans to finish the slalom ” four U.S. skiers didn’t qualify for a second run. Mancuso (seventh) and Stielger (20th) were the only U.S. skiers in the giant slalom’s top 20.

During that span, 20-year-old Austrian Kathrin Zettel has reached the podium here on four occasions; Austria has finished in the top three 12 times.

Vonn’s so-called regrettable downhill performance Saturday was actually the country’s best result during its three-year podium drought.

As bad as it can be? Not quite.