Wake up sports fans! World Cup season has arrived and it’s already off to an exciting start! The season opener began early Saturday morning on the slopes of Soelden, Austria with the Ladies’ FIS World Cup Giant Slalom event. Thanks to an absolutely spectacular 2011/2012 season, and a ton of pre-season buzz, all eyes were on the Americans as they went up against some of the best alpine skiers on the planet.
Despite the team’s preparation and raw talent, today’s opener proved to be disappointing for the U.S. Team. Slovenia’s Tina Maze took the giant slalom gold with a .42 margin over Kathrin Zettel of Austria who took second. Austria’s Stefanie Koehle followed in third. The Americans were plagued by limited visibility, equipment issues and technical errors, which prevented Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin from passing on to the finals.
Defending champion Lindsey Vonn, an obvious favor to win today’s competition had a decent first run that was slightly off pace. Unfortunately, during the second run she hooked her left hand on a gate near the top and went down.
Vonn explained, “That was definitely not the game plan. In the first run, I felt like I skied solid, but didn’t risk enough. I was a little bit too conservative on the pitch. In general I’m happy with my position on my skis and the way I’m skiing. I just didn’t execute the way I was hoping to today.”
She went on to say, “Second run I was trying as hard as I could to make up two and a half seconds, which is tough to do, and I got my arm caught on a gate. Visibility was really bad today. I think five of the top 10 went out.”
Julia Mancuso ended losing a ski during her first run which was an unexpected setback for the Squaw Valley-native.
Mancuso explained, saying, “It’s a first for me, so I’ll take it as a first and a last since it was the first race of the season. Nine out of 10 times your ski might stay on. It was sort of the perfect storm. I was going to make a transition and it was bumpy. My ski just caught the other ski and clicked off.”
Fans of the U.S. Team had expected a strong showing from Mikaela Shiffrin, but unfortunately she missed qualifying in the top 30 final by .01!
“I have to say, I’m a little bummed, said Shiffrin. “I’ve been training fast, but it’s what matters in a race and that wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I feel like I’m skiing well and just in general my skiing is better than it was last year by a long shot so I’m really looking forward to the season in both giant slalom and slalom.”
While this wasn’t the season opener we had hoped for, there is little doubt that the team can and will redeem themselves during the next event. The women now head back to the United States to celebrate the opening of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain on October 31st.