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Sunday’s Cortina super-G course was not kind to the ladies on the World Cup speed circuit. The extremely turny course favored technical skiers participating in the speed event, and spat out traditional downhill skiers who excel in straighter-set courses. An astonishing number of women—22 to be exact—did not finish Sunday’s race, most of them missing a gate at the very start or near the middle of the course. Among those women: some of the best speed racers in the world, including Lindsey Vonn, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, and the winner of both Cortina downhill races this weekend, Ramona Siebenhofer of Austria.
On the other hand, it should come as no surprise that since the super-G course favored technical skiing and skiers who are trained to react quickly, Mikaela Shiffrin landed right at the top of the podium to clinch her third super-G victory of the season. Liechentstein’s Tina Weirather, currently ranked fourth in the world in giant slalom, finished in second while Austria’s Tamara Tippler rounded out the podium in third.
Shiffrin, starting relatively late in the race with bib number 17, skied fluidly and seemed to have no problems with the tricky sections of the course that other racers struggled with, yet she trailed Weirather’s leading time for the first two splits. But by the third split, Shiffrin was only 0.08 seconds behind, and through the last gates she managed to shave off enough time to cross the finish line 0.16 seconds ahead of Weirather.
“It took a little time to get into a rhythm, [but I pushed] harder and harder all the way down, and it worked out,” Shiffrin said. “I like the whole slope, it [flows] really nicely. It seems like it’s made to be a super-G slope…sometimes there are tricky parts so you have to be smart with your tactics. But you have to be aggressive everywhere.”
“It’s always good for me to go somewhere I know,” Shiffrin added. “And in [super-G] especially because I still feel pretty new with [super-G], even though I’ve had time on the skis, I’ve had podiums, I’ve had wins, but every time I go into the start, I have to be extra focused and always really vigilant on my skis. I [have to remember] that they’re not slalom skis, they respond differently, so I have to be different with my movements as well…it’s a lot of thinking, but I’m starting to find the balance to relax a little bit more. And then when I’m at a place like Lake Louise, where I’ve been several times now, or here, where I’ve been a couple times, I know what my tactic needs to be so I can push it and feel a little bit more confident.”
Vonn, who struggled with confidence and aggression in the Cortina downhills this weekend, looked solid in the top section of the course. But Vonn’s line was off heading into the steep and turny middle section of the run, skiing too low and turning too late for the approaching gates. Finally, her line just became too low and she hit a gate straight on, straddling it and skiing out of the course.
Though Vonn certainly wasn’t the only racer to miss a gate on Sunday’s course—American Alice Merryweather also skied out of the course—the failure to finish a race on Cortina’s slope, where she has collected 12 World Cup wins over her career, hit Vonn particularly hard.
“I haven’t quite processed everything yet,” Vonn told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after her DNF. “I can’t seem to stop crying. It’s been a lot of great memories here in Cortina. I tried to really ski my best, I tried to come through the finish and make a good result for the fans here, but I didn’t quite do that.”
American Laurenne Ross, who scored a top 10 finish in Cortina’s first downhill this weekend, finished Sunday’s super-G with a 23rd place finish to collect additional World Cup points. See full results of Cortina’s super-G here.
Thanks to her win in Cortina, Shiffrin extended her overall World Cup lead over Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by 596 points and remains the leader in the World Cup super-G. She also leads the season’s standings in giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin will get a couple weeks to relax and bask in those leads while other ladies head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for the next downhill and super-G races on Jan. 24-25. Shiffrin has opted to skip those races in favor of rest and training for the next slalom and giant slalom events in Maribor, Slovenia on Feb. 1-2.
Vonn, who intended to start in all remaining super-G and downhill races of the season, is rethinking her start in Garmisch next week.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to Garmisch,” Vonn said. “I’m not sure if I can keep going. I have to really think things through the next few days and make some hard decisions.”