German wins GS in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – One year after a deflating close call, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg stood tall at Aspen Winternational.
The 22-year-old from Tegernsee missed out on a giant slalom victory by one-hundredth of a second last November on Aspen Mountain. Clinging to first place late in Saturday’s GS, Rebensburg admitted her heart was pounding as she watched first-run leader Elisabeth Goergl of Austria speed down the final pitch.
A few untimely bobbles cost Goergl, however, and Rebensburg, who overcame a substantial deficit by fearlessly negotiating a demanding course enveloped in afternoon shadows, was left basking in the glow of the gold medal.
Her two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 11.25 seconds was good for a .33-second victory.
“I tried to stay calm and ski good – that was my most important goal for the second run,” an elated Rebensburg said afterward. “I knew I had to push the limit. I really pushed. … I didn’t know if it was enough for me.”
American fans anxiously scanned the course and the clock, too – particularly when Squaw Valley, Calif.’s Julia Mancuso, fourth after the opening run, vaulted into second place with just three racers remaining.
After Denise Karbon of Italy wound up fourth, a group of U.S. supporters chanted “One more.”
When Switzerland’s Lara Gut stumbled, finishing outside the top 3, a loud roar swept through the grandstand.
The drought is over. While Goergl dropped her from silver to bronze position, Mancuso still managed to log the U.S. women’s first podium result here since Kristina Koznick in November 2004, a span of 13 races.
“Everyone talks about the excitement of getting America on the podium. I’m glad I could bring that to the crowd,” said Mancuso, who was 10th in the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria.
“I’ve been wanting to ski very fast in GS. I had a couple unlucky runs last year, so this is just a great way to start.”
Vail’s Lindsey Vonn, who won in Soelden but has been battling back pain after sustaining an injury Nov. 18, made up ground in the afternoon but could not overcome a tentative opening run. She was 12th in 2:12.99 – 1.3 seconds behind Mancuso.
“I just wasn’t quite myself. I didn’t take enough risk,” the three-time World Cup overall winner said. “The second run was definitely better, but it’s not the way I’ve been skiing.
“It’s not the result I was hoping for. … I’ve struggled here in Aspen pretty much my entire career.”
Rebensburg, meanwhile, has finished in the top 10 in three of her four GS races here. She was well positioned for a victory last year after posting the morning’s fastest time, but one critical second-run mistake cost her speed – and a spot on top of the podium. France’s Tessa Worley capitalized, securing her second Aspen GS title.
Rebensburg took charge this time around, overcoming a lackluster start and a nearly one-second deficit with an impressive second run.
“I didn’t expect this and I’m so, so happy,” she said.
“For me, this is the most difficult giant slalom on the World Cup, but the piste was perfect and the course suits my style.”
Worley, wearing bib No. 5, skied off course early in her opening run Saturday.
Goergl, who finished fourth in the Winternational GS last season, had no such problems. Her technically sound opening run helped her generate a .59-second advantage over her nearest competitor, Gut.
“I think I had a really good first run. I was just skiing like I’ve been with good technique,” Goergl said. “The second run was not so good … but I kept fighting and going for it.”
Mancuso took a similar approach, despite what she deemed trying conditions.
“The hill, just how it goes with the shade, not only did it change the light but also the consistency of the snow underfoot changed a lot, and I wasn’t quite ready for that,” the 27-year-old said. “I knew something was wrong so I had to charge even harder, and I just kind of went for it probably more with my body than my feet underneath me – that’s why I made a couple of mistakes. … I held in there and was psyched to hold on to a podium spot.”
The podium finish is Mancuso’s first in GS since December 2007, and the first in the discipline in Aspen for the U.S. women since Tamara McKinney’s win in 1981.
McKinney, who also hails from Squaw Valley, was in town for Saturday’s race.
Eagle-Vail 16-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin was a forerunner in Aspen last November.
Saturday, the precocious U.S. Ski Team member found herself in the World Cup starting gate – and nearly in the top 30.
“I had a lot of fun, made some mistakes, had some good turns and overall had a good run,” said Shiffrin, who wound up 35th in just her third World Cup appearance. “[There were] not too many nerves because it’s just ski racing. When I face a new experience or something I’ve never done before I’ll get a little nervous, but we were training on this hill a week ago and we free-skied it yesterday. I knew what was coming and whether I took advantage of it or not, I wasn’t nervous about it.”
Teammate Resi Stiegler, who was making her first World Cup GS start since 2007 because of a rash of injuries, had a much different experience.
“I don’t normally talk that much [in the start house], and I couldn’t shut up. … I think I was pretty nervous,” joked the Jackson Hole, Wyo., native, who finished 39th. “I think I was trying to be too perfect.
“It’s hard because you get so excited, then you race and you only make one run. … It’s hard, you know, but you’ve just got to keep going for it.”
Both skiers are slated to compete in Sunday’s slalom, which kicks off at 10 a.m.
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.