Lienz, Austria – Vail, Colo.’s Sarah Schleper kept it together on the icy track in Lienz to lead the U.S. Ski Team for a 13th in a World Cup giant slalom ski race on Monday. Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany held on to her first run lead to win the race. World Cup overall leader Lindsey Vonn, also of Vail, was not seriously injured after crashing in the first run and is likely to ski again in Tuesday’s slalom.
The technical first run track claimed numerous top racers including Vonn, who crashed after her skis locked up going around a gate mid-course and she suffered an injury to her left arm. The crash caused a slight race delay, yet Vonn was able to ski down on her own power.
According to U.S. Ski Team Medical Director Richard Quincy, Vonn was evaluated at a local hospital where both x-rays and an MRI showed no fractures, only a bone bruise. Her arm will be placed in a splint. It is possible she could ski in Tuesday’s slalom.
Top World Cup challenger Maria Riesch of Germany also had trouble on the slick course and failed to finish.
With what U.S. Women’s Ski Team Head Technical Coach Trevor Wagner called “great technical skiing,” Schleper built momentum off recent Europa Cup podiums to take a 20th first-run position to finish 13th for the day.
“I saw the course on TV before I went out and it looked super rippable, so I tried to go. There were a couple spots where I got a little late and I had to throw some spray to stay on track, which is never fast. So if I can just clean those up and trust myself a little bit more, I think I can pop into the top ten or even top five,” Schleper said. “I saw how much more it flowed. It was so fun to come into the finish with Megan (McJames, of Park City, Utah) right there and I think it was my most fun experience so far this year.”
“Sarah did awesome again. She moved up to 13th place in the second run and skied that run solidly. There were still some mistakes, but all in all she skied really well,” Wagner said.
According to Wagner, Schleper’s ability to fixate her skills on the technical portions of the race hill, as well as charging in her second run, enabled her to move up in the GS.
“Sarah’s second run was great. She did an amazing job in all the technical parts,” Wagner said. “There were some slick spots on the course where everyone had little mistakes, but she got through it.”
As for where Schleper’s consistency is coming from this year, Wagner believes getting settled into motherhood and having some time has played a big role in the skier getting back.
“She has been at this point in training, but I think it took the last season just to get used to racing again. Also having her child be a little bit older means less stress on her on a daily basis,” Wagner said.
Also making her mark for a great second run was McJames who, skiing out of bib 50, finished 20th to mark one of the better World Cup results of her career. Her finish scored McJames her first World Cup points since last January when she was 24th in Maribor.
“Starting 50 in the first run, I really had to throw it down to get in there. Second run I had a clean course so it was a good opportunity to move up. I really did my best and skied well so I’m happy,” McJames said. “There’s definitely an icy layer underneath but there’s also a soft layer on top, so starting at the beginning there was a little more of the soft layer there. It was definitely grippier on top. It was good.”
“This is a really good finish for Megan. She did what she’s been working on all summer and winter, which is staying off the gate, giving herself enough room to make a nice turn and realizing that it’s enough,” Wagner said. “She did an awesome job. She attacked on the second run and skied to win.”
It was a tough day for Canadian ski racers, as Marie-Pier Préfontaine (Saint-Sauveur, Quebec) was the top Canadian, finishing the opening run in 36th, 0.39 seconds out of qualification for the second run. Shona Rubens (Canmore, Alberta) was 53rd and Britt Janyk was 55th. Marie-Michèle Gagnon (Lac-Etchemin, Quebec) did not complete her opening run.
The women race again in Lienz on Tuesday in a slalom.
“We’ve got a lot of great slalom skiers. It’s a great hill with great conditions. Everything is to our advantage,” Wagner said.
2010 AUDI FIS WORLD CUP
Lienz, Austria – Dec. 28, 2009
1. Kathrin Hoelzl, Germany, 2:16.61
2. Manuela Moelgg, Italy, 2:16.66
3. Taina Barioz, France, 2:16.72
4. Federica Brignone, Italy, 2:16.73
5. Viktoria Rebensburg, Germany, 2:16.80