ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE, Austria (AP) – Not since the 1984 Olympics had U.S. women been so dominant in a ski race.
Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow captured the top two places in a World Cup super-combi on Sunday, and Resi Stiegler just missed making it an American sweep. The 1-2-4 finish was a first for American women in a World Cup event, and matched the showing in the giant slalom at the Sarajevo Olympics 23 years ago.
“What a great victory for me, but for the team also,” Mancuso said. “This is one of the best days for American skiing since a very long time.”
Mancuso had a combined time of 2 minutes, 9.16 seconds to edge Kildow by 0.06 seconds. The pair had the best times in the morning downhill portion of the event, and held their places in the afternoon slalom run.
Slalom specialist Marlies Schild of Austria was third, and Stiegler was fourth in 2:21.09 – a fifth of a second behind Schild for the third spot on the podium.
Mancuso’s strength is speed events, and she finished third in a downhill Saturday. Stiegler traditionally has been best at technical races such as slalom. They swapped tips Sunday.
“Resi and I just shared some secrets to help each of us,” Mancuso said with a laugh in the finish area.
The 1-2-4 finish matched that of the American women in the 1984 Olympic giant slalom, when Debbie Armstrong won gold, Christin Cooper took silver and Tamara McKinney placed fourth.
Mancuso led Kildow by 0.88 seconds after the downhill and said she knew that margin would be sliced in the slalom. After she captured her second World Cup win, Mancuso – the Olympic giant slalom champion – rolled around on her back on the snow with her skis in the air.
“My good downhill time helped me a lot,” Mancuso said. “I did not have to do anything special in the slalom – just make my own race and avoid errors. It was not my best slalom ever, but I made it a consistent one.”
Kildow, who had crashed the day earlier in a downhill, closed the gap but could not catch her teammate.
“I was a bit nervous for today’s races after my crash on Saturday,” Kildow said. “I would have been happy if I had just finished my slalom run. Really awesome that I did so well.
“And I did not just finish, it was a really good run as well. This was a great performance from the whole team. I hope it will give a big boost to the ski sports in America.”
Sweden’s Anja Paerson, fourth after the downhill Sunday, was on track to win the super-combi until she missed a gate just before the slalom finish.
Stiegler, who was 14th in Sunday’s downhill leg and second fastest in the slalom, is the daughter of former Austrian Olympic champion Pepi Stiegler.
“Resi’s improved so much in speed. Every day she’s getting more comfortable and today she had a great downhill,” U.S. women’s coach Patrick Riml said. “It’s unbelievable what happened, just unbelievable. If you asked me at breakfast if we could go 1-2-4, I would have said that’s wishful thinking.”
Sloppy course hurts men
Austria’s Mario Matt won a World Cup super-combi Sunday on a sloppy course that wiped out Bode Miller and left some skiers grumbling that the race wasn’t fair.
Matt rallied in the slalom, taking advantage of starting first on a slope that got worse with each competitor. He was 34th after the downhill but regrouped for his first World Cup victory in almost two years.
Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety of the United States finished 10th. Peter Fill of Italy, who had the fastest downhill time, finished 21st.
“Nobody had a chance after Matt,” Ligety said. “It’s not fair to the athletes, but it’s not fair to the spectators, either. This is not good ski racing when nobody has a chance after the first guy. It’s very frustrating. It’s not fun to race when it’s way too soft.”
Miller, who won the famed Lauberhorn downhill Saturday, has yet to complete either a slalom or combined event this season.
He was second fastest in the downhill but straddled a gate in the slalom on a course mangled by rain and temperatures in the 50s. Brown soil could be seen through a thin layer of deteriorating snow.
“I think Bode might have been adapting his skiing to the conditions,” U.S. men’s coach Phil McNichol said. “He still should have been able to finish, though, at least fifth. Still, I don’t like to see a race like this because it wasn’t about the fastest guy, but about starting positions and happenstance. The conditions were horrific.”
International Ski Federation official Mike Kertesz said he received complaints after the race. He acknowledged later starters in the slalom were at a serious disadvantage.
“Of course, the conditions weren’t in their favor at the time they started,” Kertesz told The Associated Press. “Obviously they needed one heck of a run to make it in there.”
“The ones who didn’t win complained,” he added. “Like any race where the conditions were difficult, they blamed the conditions. We did our best to make a professional race with what we had. Some racers are going to be happy, others aren’t.”
McNichol questioned whether the race should have taken place but understands the need to run as many races as possible because of warm weather across Europe disrupting the World Cup calendar.
“We’re held hostage to Mother Nature,” he said. “FIS through its actions this season have made it clear they want the safest conditions they can have, but they also want to produce the race at all costs. Fairness is not going to dictate a decision this season.”
The super-combi initially was scheduled for Friday, but was postponed because of warm weather and rain. It replaced a slalom that was slated for Sunday. That slalom will be picked up later in the season.
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who was eighth, remained atop the World Cup overall standings with 703 points after 20 races. Didier Cuche of Switzerland is second with 651 points, while Miller is third with 640.
Berthod took the lead in the World Cup combined standings from Svindal and leads with 173 points, one more than Svindal.
Matt was 34th fastest on the morning downhill leg on the Lauberhorn course. Four racers ahead of him withdrew before the slalom, including Austrian teammates Hermann Maier and Georg Streitberger, boosting Matt into 30th position.
Because the top 30 in the downhill ski the slalom in reverse starting order, Matt was first out of the starting gate on the Jungfrau course.
“It was definitely an advantage for me to start first in the slalom. I knew if I could do a good slalom, I could finish in the top five or even make a podium,” Matt said. “But still, in Wengen the downhill is very long and as a slalom skier you need to show guts to ski the tough sections and you have to take a lot of risks.”