Category archive: Alpine Skiing
WENGEN, Switzerland -- Ivica Kostelic won a World Cup super-combined event Friday to extend his lead in the overall standings with a third victory in 12 days. Bode Miller was the top American in sixth place.
Kostelic dominated the afternoon slalom run, after placing sixth in the downhill, for a combined two-leg time of 2 minutes 40.44 seconds. Carlo Janka of Switzerland was second, 0.58 seconds back. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was third.
American Ted Ligety used the second-best slalom run to place ninth.
With 100 race points for victory, Kostelic holds a 109-point advantage on Svindal in the standings.
Kostelic's 14th World Cup win came after victories in a parallel slalom event this month at Munich and a slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland.
"I'm just riding on this wave that I caught in Munich and going from race to race," said Kostelic, who excels on the Wengen slalom slope. "These last two weeks have been the most successful of my career."
Miller, who edged Kostelic for the Olympic super-combined gold medal last February, was 1.68 back. The American got his best result of the season in a traditional World Cup race.
Ligety had the second-fastest slalom run in snowy conditions he described as "horrendous" after days of rain and warm weather.
"The course is just bottomless slush," said Ligety, who finished 23rd in the downhill. Ligety stayed fifth in the overall standings.
The wet, spring-like snow perfectly suited Kostelic, who prides himself on training into May when other racers take offseason breaks.
"I ski quite well on the soft snow," said Kostelic, who was fifth after the downhill.
Nearing the halfway mark of the season, Kostelic is well poised to claim his first overall World Cup title. His sister Janica was a three-time women's overall champion, in 2001, '03 and '06.
Janka is the defending overall champion and equaled his best result this season.
"Ivica was too strong. I'm really happy with my day, in downhill and the slalom," said the 24-year-old Swiss, who will defend his title in the classic Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday.
Daniel Albrecht started a speed race for the first time since his horrific crash in downhill training two years ago at Kitzbuehel, Austria. He injured his brain and lungs and was kept in a medically induced coma for three weeks.
Albrecht, who has competed in three giant slaloms this season, ran two-thirds of the shortened Lauberhorn course before missing a gate in the downhill.
"I told myself yesterday, 'Do the race, but do it easily and take it as a training run," said the 27-year-old Swiss, who was 2007 world champion in super-combined. "The feeling is not so bad."
About 19,000 fans lined the course for the first of the three-race Lauberhorn weekend, which includes a slalom on Sunday.
A recap of Thursday's World Cup action:
Men's slalom: Ligety finishes sixthZAGREB, Croatia -- Andre Myhrer of Sweden won a World Cup night slalom race on Thursday for his second career title, four years after capturing his first.
The Olympic bronze medalist, who was fourth after the opening run, finished on the icy Crveni Spust course in a combined time of 1 minute, 52.74 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was 0.10 seconds behind to finish second in his home race for the third time in four years.
Myhrer's teammate Mattias Hargin had the fastest second-run time to jump from 30th to third, 0.36 behind the winner. Olympic champion Giuliano Razzoli, who was fastest in the first run, finished 0.40 seconds back in fourth place.
"I knew the other guys were fast so I had to charge all the way down," Myhrer said.
The 27-year-old Swede, who also won a slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., in December 2006, went to the top of the discipline standings with 189 points, 36 clear of Kostelic.
Michael Walchhofer of Austria, who skips the technical races, remained in the lead of the overall standings with 409 points. Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen has 396 and Ted Ligety of the United States has 376.
"I was lacking speed recently," Myhrer said, expressing surprise at winning his second career race in Croatia. "I tried to focus on my skiing more than on the result."
Ligety, who is dominating the giant slaloms this season, finished sixth for his best slalom result since placing fourth in Schladming, Austria, in 2008.
"My slalom is getting better. It's taking me some time to adjust the equipment," said Ligety, who switched ski brands in the offseason. "I wasn't that fast last year but this year I feel I can get fast. It's just a matter of getting everything lined up right."
Women's downhill: Vonn strong in training sessionALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria -- Anna Fenninger of Austria posted the fastest time in a women's World Cup downhill training session Thursday, beating defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn by 0.10 seconds.
The 21-year-old Fenninger has yet to win a World Cup race but sped down the 3-kilometer Kaelberloch course in 1 minute, 48.60 seconds. Fenninger's teammate Andrea Fischbacher was 0.14 seconds behind in third, and overall leader Maria Riesch of Germany finished 18th.
Another downhill training run was scheduled for Friday, followed by a downhill race and a super-G this weekend.
Ski jumping: Morgenstern winsBISCHOFSHOFEN, Austria -- World Cup leader Thomas Morgenstern won the Four Hills ski jumping tournament for the first time on Thursday.
The 24-year-old Austrian took second place behind Norway's Tom Hilde in the final event to stay on top of the Four Hills standings ahead of Switzerland's Simon Ammann.
Morgenstern is the third straight Austrian winner of the prestigious competition after Wolfgang Loitzl in 2008-09 and Andreas Kofler last season. No nation has won the tournament for three years in a row since Norway from 1966-69.
ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford recently caught up with Will Gregorak, who talked about what it's like being one of the new skiers on the slopes for the U.S. team and what he expects from himself in the giant slalom this season.
VAIL, Colo. -- The town square in this manicured resort was dark by the time Lindsey Vonn stopped signing autographs Saturday evening. Her teammates in their identical purple plaid jackets had gradually drifted away after a long day of training and media interviews, but Vonn, still looking relaxed and fresh, kept scrawling away on hats, jackets, skis, anything offered to her. She lives just steps away and you could feel an almost palpable sense that she didn't want to let anyone down.
Disappointment has largely disappeared from Vonn's vocabulary in the past three years, and she'd like to keep it that way. A three-time defending World Cup overall champion and double world championship gold medalist in speed events, Vonn survived injury and intensely high expectations to win a downhill gold and a bronze medal in the super-G at the Vancouver Olympics.
A veteran at 26, Vonn's next quest is to be more versatile. She is committed to competing through the 2014 Sochi Games and wants to improve her performance in the technical events. Of Vonn's 33 career wins on the World Cup circuit, only two have come from slalom and three from the combined event; giant slalom remains her last unconquered frontier. She focused on slalom and giant slalom in training this summer -- "I've always struggled with those two events," she said -- and tweaked her diet this fall, eliminating rice, pasta, bread and dairy products.
Maintaining dominance and expanding a skill set can be a tricky equation for an athlete, but "It's definitely possible," Vonn said. Her motivational example is a role model who has become a friend, Roger Federer. She witnessed him complete his career Slam at the 2009 French Open -- the first match at that level she'd seen in person -- and spent quality time with him before this year's U.S. Open.
VAIL, Colo. -- Bode Miller moves like a big cat and has had the appropriate number of lives. The fact he's back to race in 2010-11, emerging for an encore after one of the most dramatic seasons of a dramatic career, shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to him for the past 12 years.
Miller, unimpressed by authority and indifferent toward the trappings of athletic success, is now an elder statesman on a powerhouse squad, a two-time overall World Cup champion and the most decorated American Olympian in his sport. He rebuilt his burned bridges with the U.S. Ski Team last year and both parties have benefitted. Miller wiped out the memories of his desultory 2006 performance by winning gold (super combined), silver (super-G) and bronze (downhill) medals in Vancouver -- to add to the two silvers he won in Salt Lake City -- and actually appeared to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. The team got additional hardware via a unique, occasionally maddening and always fascinating personality.
But Miller is not, to paraphrase a line from "Bull Durham" protagonist Crash Davis, one to hit his dinger and hang up his boots and bindings. The one consistent thread in his abstract tapestry -- aside from talent -- is his stubborn refusal to proceed along what most people would consider a normal narrative arc. His fourth Olympics might have seemed like the perfect happy ending, but the notion of quitting while he was ahead would be foreign to Miller, who doesn't keep score the way the rest of the world does. He's remarkably sound for 33, he still loves racing, he likes the staff and his young teammates, no one barks at him any more about sleeping in an RV instead of the team hotel, so why shouldn't he keep going?
Miller has become increasingly impatient with attempts to analyze his motives over the years. He kept his enormous ink-black goggles on while he spoke to a small group of reporters after training Saturday morning and parried most inquiries about his competitive psyche by making broad generalizations about an insatiable media. He looked far more at ease interacting with kids in an autograph line later that day, offering a word or a smile or bending down for a snapshot with each one.
Conquest has never been what drives Miller, even though he's mastered his share of courses, so perhaps we should take his cue and stop asking what more he desires to accomplish. Still, his old friend Mike Day -- appointed head men's coach for the technical events, slalom and giant slalom, last spring -- ventured to say that Miller might want to show he can still excel in the races in which he first made his mark on the world scene.
Day, a former student and coach at Miller's alma mater, Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine, first met Miller when the skier was 17. He said Miller's trademark high-risk style has evolved over the years to a still-aggressive but more tactical approach. "He's skiing in a fashion where he's within himself," Day said.
That may convey serenity, but Miller is constantly in motion, shifting his weight on skis, shifting from foot to foot during an interview, shifting his thoughts toward the next problem to solve, whether it's his equipment or his environment.
"[Ski racing] wasn't fun before, a couple times, and I've changed it and made the adaptations I needed to do to keep myself really excited and fired up about it," he said. "That gets more and more difficult as you run out of things to change or you've done what there is to do."
How has such a restless soul managed to stick around this long? The secret may be as simple as this: He's still interested.