After a wild week of racing, the U.S. Ski Team added some meat to their successful 2014-15 season with eight top-10 finishes in six races—men’s and women’s downhill, men’s and women’s super-G, and men’s and women’s combined—during the first week of the 2015 F.I.S. Alpine World Championships hosted in the U.S. for the first time since 1999.
Lindsey Vonn, the current World Cup points leader in the Downhill and Super-G, kicked off the week in her hometown with a third-place finish in super-G, finishing behind World Cup points overall leader Tina Maze, and Austria’s Anna Fenniger. Tahoe’s Julia Mancuso finished 1.63 seconds behind Fenniger for a ninth place finish. Three days later, it was Maze solidifying her World Cup overall lead with a gold-medal performance in the downhill, with Fenniger second and Vonn fifth.
“I’m happy with the way I skied and with the result,” Vonn told USSA after the super-G. “I just wish that the weather was a little bit better. I definitely had a pretty strong headwind right out of the starting gate and for the first couple of gates.”
The men battled the same elements, as the super-G had to be rescheduled from Wednesday’s original start to Thursday due to heavy falling snow. That didn’t keep Austrian Hannes Reichelt from flying down the Birds of Prey course into the top spot, with American Ted Ligety finishing ninth and Bode Miller taking a severe tumble, which led to a rather sickening gash in his calf and the New Hampshire native pondering his racing future.
But it was Saturday’s theatrics on the men’s downhill that created the most buzz, especially for the Americans. Under sunny skies, 26-year-old Travis Ganong took home his first World Championships medal with his silver-medal run, as teammate big Steve Nyman finished in fourth, 0.03 off the podium, while Andrew Weibrecht, wearing bib 35, tied for ninth place.
“Steve Nyman inspired me,” Ganong told USSA after the race. “I heard he was in second place, and was like, ‘OK, if he’s fast, I can be fast.’ There’s so much pressure here in front of the home country, hometown crowd, my friends and family. It’s unbelievable. Skiing is the most fun thing you can do, and when it works out well in a venue and on a stage like this, it’s so special.”
In Sunday and Monday’s combined, Maze finished first again while Ligety took third after waiting 17 minutes in the downhill start hut for the course to clear after a crash. He ended up 3.03 seconds off the fastest time before making nearly it all up, along with Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, in the slalom, but not enough to overtake the speedy Norwegian, Kjetil Jansrud.
“It’s not the way I would have liked to have my race go, as far as having a good downhill run,” Ligety told USSA. “I had an amazing slalom run, besides having a big mistake. For 59 out of the 60 gates I was beating Marcel [Hirscher] and that’s a huge confidence booster for me. That’s encouraging for the slalom on Sunday.”
This week features the tech events—giant slalom and slalom—with Ligety and Vail’s own Mikaela Shriffin, 19, looking to stand atop the home country podium.
For a complete schedule of this week’s events, go here.