Skiing

Austria's Fenninger leads women's World Cup GS after 1st run

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Associated Press
12/28/2012 7:10:22 AM
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SEMMERING, Austria -- Anna Fenninger of Austria posted the fastest time in the first run of a women's World Cup giant slalom Friday to lead pre-race favourites Tessa Worley of France and Tina Maze of Slovenia by more than half a second.

In difficult conditions because of snowfall, Fenninger came down the Panorama course in 1 minute, 6.42 seconds to beat second-place Worley by 0.56.

Overall World Cup leader Maze, who has won four of the five GS races this season, came 0.90 behind in third.

"I started well," said Fenninger, who led Worley by 0.74 at the first intermediate time. "Visibility was good for my run. I am in a new situation now, I have never been in the lead after the first run."

Fenninger won a GS on home soil -- in Lienz -- a year ago to the day for her sole World Cup victory.

SEMMERING, Austria -- Anna Fenninger of Austria had two near-perfect runs to win a women's World Cup giant slalom on Friday, while second-place Tina Maze of Slovenia extended her lead in the overall standings.

In difficult conditions because of snowfall, Fenninger posted the fastest time in both runs on the Panorama course and finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 13.09 seconds to beat Maze by 1.10. Tessa Worley of France, who was second after the opening run, came 1.18 back in third.

It was Fenninger's second World Cup victory after also winning a GS on home soil -- in Lienz -- a year ago to the day.

"I was very difficult to free my mind before the start," said Fenninger, who had never led a World Cup race after the first run before. "I tried to tell myself that it's just an ordinary race. I kept repeating that, and it worked."

Fenninger held a 0.90-second margin over Maze going into the final run but refused to hold back and managed to even increase that lead, to the delight of the home crowd.

Maze, who won the first four GS events this season, accepted her defeat with a smile.

"I am really happy with my skiing," said Maze, who lost time early in her opening run as she struggled for rhythm in the first flat section. "I lost a lot of time there. I fought until the end but Anna really had a perfect day. She was unbeatable today."

Maze became the first woman skier to earn nine podium finishes in GS within one year, beating the record previously held by Lise-Marie Morerod of Switzerland (1977), Deborah Compagnoni of Italy (1997) and Anita Wachter of Austria (1999).

"It's my skiing that makes me confident, I don't look at the points or the records," the Slovenian said. "I try to prepare each race as well as I can. It's not always perfect but I am a fighter."

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn of the United States skipped the race as she is taking a break from the circuit to fully recover from an intestinal illness.

Maze finished runner-up to Vonn last season without winning a race. In the first 15 events of this season, Maze won five times and earned five more podium finishes.

She now tops the overall standings with 999 points, and is likely to surpass the 1,000-point mark in Saturday's slalom, the last women's race of 2012.

Maze already leads second-place Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by 417 points. Vonn is fifth, trailing Maze by 585 points.

"It's still a long season, anything can happen," Maze said. "If Lindsey comes back and she wins all the downhills, you never know. I am not calculating. I hope Lindsey returns to the circuit quickly, but of course her health is most important."

The only other racer besides Maze and Fenninger to win a GS this season, Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, finished 1.91 behind Fenninger in fifth place.

After six of nine events, Maze is a strong favourite to take the discipline title. She leads No. 2 Kathrin Zettel by 198 points, with each victory worth 100 points.

There is one more women's GS scheduled ahead of February's world championships -- in Maribor, Slovenia, on Jan. 26.

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, who won her first World Cup race last week, reached another milestone by finishing eighth, the best GS result in her young career.

Shiffrin, wearing bib 27th, posted the 12th time in the first run. She had several mistakes in her final run but used a blistering finish to win four more places. She finished 2.68 off Fenninger's winning time.

"I had some energy that run," said Shiffrin, who fought a cold over the last couple of days. "My energy level has been OK, or maybe I am just telling myself that's OK -- mind over matter ... Hopefully tonight I get a good night of sleep and come out tomorrow (for the slalom) and have some fun."

The 2006 Olympic champion, Julia Mancuso, continued her below-par GS season and came 25th, 4.16 seconds behind Fenninger.

"I felt pretty well but somehow the time isn't there," the American said. "I was surprised that I was that far behind. I thought I had a pretty good section."

Mancuso switched her ski supplier in the off-season. Her best result so far in the discipline was sixth in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 16.

"I am better when the snow is really hard," Mancuso said. "I guess these are not quite my conditions."

 

Maze lost time early in her run as she struggled for rhythm in the first flat section.

"It's not what I hoped for," Maze said. "It was a poor start and I had no speed in the flat part. I will have to attack in the second run, but I am quite far behind."

The only other racer besides Maze to win a GS this season, Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, finished 1.25 behind Fenninger in sixth place.

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn skipped the race as she is taking a break from the circuit to fully recover from an intestinal illness. Her American teammates Mikaela Shiffrin and Julia Mancuso placed 12th and 19th respectively.

"I felt pretty well but somehow the time isn't there," said 2006 Olympic GS champion Mancuso, who was 2.64 seconds back. "I was surprised that I was that far behind. I thought I had a pretty good section."

Mancuso switched her ski supplier in the off-season. Her best result so far in the discipline was sixth in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 16.

"I am better when the snow is really hard," Mancuso said. "I guess these are not quite my conditions."

Anna Fenninger (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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