The Lindsey Vonn recovery watch continues and it looks better every day for the American champion as she rebounds from injury and pushes toward Sochi. Vonn finished 11th in the second weekend downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, leaping 29 spots from Friday’s 40th place result on her more cautious first race day back.The U.S. women’s speed team has been struggling with mid-pack and lower finishes at Beaver Creek last weekend and similar results Friday. But, perhaps having Vonn back on the attack did the trick Saturday. Something worked.
Stacey Cook finished just behind Vonn in 12th. Leanne Smith was 17th and Julia Mancuso 21st. Other American finishers down in the pack were Jacqueline Wiles, Julia Ford, Laurenne Ross and Katie Ryan.
Vonn’s good friend Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the 2011 overall World Cup champion, won her second straight downhill after having a disappointing race at Beaver Creek last weekend. Hoefl-Riesch finished atop the podium in a time of one minute, 55.09. Vonn’s time was 1:56.35, 1.25 off that pace.
Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather was second in 1:55 43, while Austrian Anna Fenninger was third in 1:55.56.
Vonn told snow journalists after the race Saturday she may not compete in a full World Cup downhill schedule this winter trying “to save my knee as much as I can” for the Sochi Olympics. She said she’d determine next steps after this weekend.
A super G is scheduled for Sunday to wrap up the Lake Louise World Cup races. The next ladies downhill is schedule for Val Gardena, Italy Dec. 21.
Men At Beaver Creek
The Men’s Birds of Prey World Cup continued at Beaver Creek, Colo., Saturday with American Ted Ligety warming up for Sunday’s Giant Slalom with a fifth place finish just ten-one-hundredths of a second off the super G podium.
Winner was Patrick Kueng of Switzerland in a time of 1:21.73 in the Audi FIS World Cup. Austrian Otmar Streidinger was second in 1:21.97. Austrian Hannes Reichelt and Italy’s Peter Fill tied third in at 1:22.17.
Ligety’s time was 1:22.21, about a half-second behind the leader and “oh, so close” to a podium appearance. Other American finishers were Bode Miller, 14th; and Andrew Weinbrecht, 20th.
“It was close,” Ligety said. “I think we both (Miller) made some mistakes, but I was able to make them in the right spots, maybe.”
Miller, a five-time Olympic medalist from New Hampshire, had a commanding lead of over a second on the top part of the course before he nearly missed a gate after the Harrier jump, recovering enough for the 14th place finish. Miller told his coaches and technician before the race. “I’m going today. There’s not going to be any holding back.”
The course, like Friday’s downhill, was a hybrid of the new Raptor course with the traditional Birds of Prey men’s course.
Weinbrecht, Olympic bronze medalist, was also in a position to grab a podium spot, but he smashed a gate, recovering to finish 20th. Five of the nine Americans entered failed to finish.
Big anticipation has settled in at Beaver Creek with Sunday’s Giant Slalom. Ligety is the reigning GS champion and won the first GS of the year in late October at Soelden, Austria. NBC Sports Network will televise the GS live at 2 p.m. EST.
Photo: American Stacey Coolk rounds into form at Lake Louise (U.S. Ski Team/Tom Kelly)