Slippery Slope for Women’s World Cup While we were all busy stuffing our faces with Thanksgiving dinner, Ski Country had seven resorts open over the holiday weekend; Telluride, Crested Butte, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, Snowmass, Steamboat, Monarch and Aspen. Aspen pulled a double whammy with opening day and hosting the 16th Women’s World Cup Winternational.
This year’s Winternational pulled double duty also serving as an Olympic qualifier for the Women’s US Ski Team.
This was the 6th consecutive year the Aspen Winternational took place on Thanksgiving weekend, and while it’s a challenge for any resort to open and host an event of this caliber on the same weekend, Aspen has only missed it once in 16 years. It was when the race had to be canceled because of too much snow.
Too much snow was not the cause for disappointment this year; rather racers were saying the course was really, really, really icy. Now as a weekend warrior, I can get away with complaining about ice, but as an Olympic contender and World Cup athlete, I would think these ladies would be used to rock-hard, water-injected, frozen race courses. They live for these conditions right? If the course was too icy for them, I can’t imagine attempting a run even without gates.
This year there is a strong field for the Women’s US team but the Aspen races proved disappointing for seven American athletes. Media darling Lindsey Vonn joined the fleet of women who failed to qualify for a second run.
Let me take a second here to explain how this worked. There were more than 60 athletes to start, each got a first run, the top 30 fastest times qualified for a second run. The 30 then took their second run, combined the times from the first and second runs together for a final combined time score. Top three earned a podium spot.
If anyone missed the first runs of Vonn or any of the unqualifying 30, they’ll have to go on the road to catch the ladies in action again. This was the only U.S. World Cup stop for Vonn and Mancuso and the U.S. Ski Team prior to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Congratulations to the winners. In Giant Slalom: Kathrin Hoelzl from Germany took the gold, Kathrin Zettel of Austria and Federica Brignone of Italy placed second and third respectively. In Slalom: Sarka Zahrobska from the Czech Republic took gold with Marlies Schild from Austria in second and Kathrin Zettel of Austria in third.
Julia Mancuso was the top American and placed 13th, Colorado native Sarah Schleper raced on to finish 23rd, while Lindsay Vonn didn’t finish her first run. But let’s give these women some credit. Imagine attempting to do what they are doing, to focus on the race at hand and keep an eye on their Olympic dream.
It takes some guts to tear ass down a steep, icy, race course at 90 mph, wearing nothing but bright colored spandex head to toe. And nowadays, because of the intense media spotlight, athletes need to always be on their game, always be aware of what they say, what they do, and what they smoke. They need to be constantly thinking about their sponsors, their fans, and their broad sphere of influence. They may have had a bad race day, but it’s not like they backed out of their driveway at 2:30am into their neighbor’s tree and a fire hydrant and have been dodging cops ever since.