Sochi recap: Alpine skiing, women’s combined

Julia Mancuso’s blazing downhill run got the early-rising Twitter crowd excited. German favorite Maria Hoefl-Riesch nailed her slalom and set a pace Mancuso couldn’t match, but Mancuso was thrilled to get down a tough slalom run with the bronze. That’s Mancuso’s fourth Olympic medal (gold in 2006 giant slalom, silvers in 2010 downhill and combined) to go with five World Championship podiums. And she has to be a contender in the upcoming speed events.

Date: 10-Feb

Sport: Alpine skiing

Event: Women’s combined (downhill and slalom)

Medalists: Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany), Nicole Hosp (Austria), Julia Mancuso (USA)

SportsMyriad projections: Tina Maze (Slovenia), Nicole Hosp (Austria), Michaela Kirchgasser (Austria)

How U.S. fared: The bad news — two Americans didn’t finish the downhill. Laurenne Ross bumped her feet together, and a ski just popped off. Even if you don’t know skiing, you know that’s not good. Fortunately, she skidded on her side rather than tumbling hard,  and she seemed unhurt.

Stacey Cook started going far too wide early on and finally missed a gate, taking her out of the competition.

Leanne Smith had a less eventful downhill, ranking 20th, 2.38 seconds behind Mancuso. But she was one of several skiers who couldn’t complete a challenging slalom course.

Then there was defending silver medalist Julia Mancuso, who always saves her best skiing for the big events. She scorched the downhill, taking a lead of 0.47 seconds. British skier Chemmy Alcott hugged her at the finish, then yelled to the camera, “See? (unintelligible) at the Olympics!” Indeed she is.

What happened: The contenders fell in line behind Mancuso in the downhill — Lara Gut (Switzerland, 0.47 seconds back), Tina Maze (Slovenia, 0.86), Anna Fenninger (Austria, 0.99) and Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany, 1.04). Hoefl-Riesch was off the pace at the start but made up ground through the middle with her technical prowess.

Also lurking were the Austrians — Elisabeth Goergl (1.21) and Nicole Hosp (1.27), though Michaela Kirchgasser left herself a 3.04-second deficit.

Off to the slalom stage, which bared its teeth early as Slovakians Kristina Saalova and Jana Gantnerova skidded off the course. Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon, who won the only World Cup combined so far this season, did a spread-eagle face-plant and came up holding her wrist.

Hosp was the first of the contenders to tackle the slalom, and she didn’t disappoint, taking a lead of 1.10 seconds over the rest of the field. Goergl was up next and started losing time early, then straddled a gate to go out of the contest.

Hoefl-Riesch, the defending champion, drove through the course like it was child’s play. She took a 0.40-second lead over Hosp. Fenninger wasn’t going to reclaim that spot for Austria, shedding time throughout the run and falling well back out of medal contention.

Then it was Tina Maze, who set all sorts of records with her World Cup domination in 2012-13. She had a bobble or two on the way down and came across in bronze medal position, behind Hoefl-Riesch and Hosp, with two skiers to go.

Lara Gut came out aggressively. Perhaps too much so. She skidded into trouble, tried to recover but couldn’t make the turn. That left Mancuso aiming at a podium of Hoefl-Riesch, Hosp and Maze. She got one.

Quote: to come

Full results

World Cup spring, USA vs. Maze: “I want that globe”

Slovenia’s Tina Maze has the overall World Cup Alpine title in hand, more than doubling her closest pursuer (2,254 points to 1,065 for Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch. The only suspense remaining in the women’s standings: Can Maze complete an unheard-of sweep of the globes handed out in each discipline?

Not if the U.S. Ski Team can help it.

After her slalom win Sunday, Maze leads in every discipline except downhill, where she’s only one point behind the injured Lindsey Vonn.  If Maze remains upright in the World Cup final, she’ll take that one. She already has the giant slalom in hand. If FIS still gave a trophy for combined, she’d have that one, too.

Giant slalom is almost in Maze’s hands. She leads Julia Mancuso by 55 points. Mancuso has to make the podium to have a mathematical chance. If Mancuso wins the final, Maze needs a top-five. If she’s second, Maze needs a top-10.

Mikaela Shiffrin is impressed. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/ESPA via USSA)
Mikaela Shiffrin is impressed. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/ESPA via USSA)

Then we have the showdown. Tina Maze vs. Mikaela Shiffrin, the teen phenom who gave up her slalom lead on Sunday. Maze now leads by seven points. It’s not officially winner-take-all — if both skiers miss the top places, Shiffrin will need a gap of two or three places to claim the title — but it’s close.

The word from this morning:

Meanwhile, in men’s Alpine, the USA officially won’t be walking away without any crystal globes. Ted Ligety has clinched the giant slalom trophy. That’ll happen when your season results are five wins and two third-place finishes in seven races. He also won the world title, of course, and he’s third in the overall World Cup standings with a career-high 922 points (620 in giant slalom).

First place will come down to a final week showdown between defending champion Marcel Hirscher (Austria) and 2007/2009 champion Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway).

In cross-country skiing, Kikkan Randall clinched the sprint season title with a split-second win over dominant Norwegian Maret Bjorgen. Margin of victory: 0.07 seconds. Can’t wait to see the video on that one. Randall also picked up some distance points this season and stands third overall.

Andy Newell is second in the men’s sprint standings, too far back to win but in good shape to stay in the top three.

In ski jumping, the U.S. men aren’t in the mix, but Sarah Hendrickson is on her way to finished second in women’s.

Nordic combined finds the USA still in transition after the big run up to Vancouver. No Americans have been in the World Cup top 10 since.

Freestyle skiing‘s overall trophy hardly matters. Everyone’s specialized, with FIVE events per gender in the Games now with the 2010 addition of skicross and the 2014 additions of halfpipe and slopestyle. Top Americans:

  • Hannah Kearney, first, women’s moguls
  • Torin Yater-Wallace, first, men’s halfpipe
  • David Wise, first, men’s halfpipe
  • Keri Herman, first, women’s slopestyle
  • Emily Cook, second, women’s aerials
  • Maddie Bowman, second, women’s halfpipe
  • Patrick Deneen, third, men’s moguls
  • Heather McPhie, third, women’s moguls
  • Bradley Wilson, fourth, men’s aerials
  • Dylan Ferguson, fourth, men’s aerials
  • Eliza Outtrim, fourth, women’s moguls

And the World Championships just wrapped up in Oslo. U.S. notes:

  • Women’s halfpipe: Bowman didn’t start.
  • Men’s halfpipe: Wise and Yater-Wallace 1-2.
  • Women’s moguls: Need you ask? Hannah Kearney. She was also third in dual moguls.
  • Men’s moguls: No medals in the traditional event, but Deneen was third in duals.
  • Women’s slopestyle: Herman wasn’t there; Grete Eliassen took third.
  • Men’s slopestyle: Thomas Wallisch first; Nicholas Goepper third.
  • Men’s skicross: John Teller third

Still two more weekends on the World Cup circuit, though, so we’ll hold off on the medal projections for now. Safe to say the USA will be expecting some hardware in Sochi.

In snowboarding, the medal projections are already up. We’ll revisit after X Games Tignes in late March. But worth noting: Even though U.S. snowboarders erratically participate on the World Cup circuit, they lead the freestyle disciplines: Scotty Lago and Kelly Clark (halfpipe), Chas Guldemond and Jamie Anderson (slopestyle).

Alpine update: Maze sweeping, USA rotating

Today’s Alpine skiing news goes beyond what I can sum up on Twitter:

First, let’s talk about Tina Maze. Last season, she finished second to the dominant Lindsey Vonn, but she didn’t win a single race.

This year, she has won nine races. She has been on the podium 20 times, tying U.S. great Phil Mahre for second-most in a season behind Austria’s Hermann (Herminator) Maier, who had 22 in the 1999-2000 season.

In that season, Maier had 2,000 points. Maze broke that record today and is up to 2,024 points.

Here’s the scary part: The season isn’t over. We have seven more races.

The other headline for Maze today is that she became just the second woman to win a race in all five disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, and combined. She could actually win the season title in all five (though, technically, no globe is at stake in combined).

  • Giant slalom: Clinched it with two races left.
  • Combined: Clinched it. No races left.
  • Super-G: Almost clinched it. She’s first, with American Julia Mancuso chasing. Two races left: Sunday and in the World Cup final.
  • Downhill: She’s in second. But she’s only one point behind Vonn, who isn’t coming back in the next month. Others are in contention: Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch and the USA’s Stacey Cook. One race left at the World Cup final.
  • Slalom: This one is the most challenging. She’s second, 33 points behind American teen phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Two races left.

A lot of Americans are popping up in the standings, even after Vonn’s illness and catastrophic injury. Mancuso is a strong fourth overall, moving ahead of Vonn this weekend.

Today’s racing summed up the U.S. experience this season. Laurenne Ross finished second for her first World Cup podium. And Alice McKennis crashed, breaking her shinbone and requiring an airlift.

Maze vs. the Americans will be a fun story to follow in Sochi. Now, please, everyone stay healthy.

AP: Tina Maze breaks 2,000-point mark
Eurosport: Maze wins Garmisch downhill and breaks 2,000 points
World Cup standings