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Thursday
Mar172011

More Races in Jeopardy?

Super G Canceled, Men GS and Women SL next up

I did a short update piece on the cancellation today and what it might mean to the overall globe race. Obviously, Lindsey would have liked to race today to keep the pressure on Riesch, who is obviously struggling mentally and physically with fatigue and maybe a total mental breakdown. Her body language is awful and her reaction to coaches in the finish area is even worse. She looks like a beaten puppy. And going into slalom tomorrow, Atle Skaardal who is the women’s World Cup Race Director for FIS, is already talking about the races tomorrow being a challenge. Meaning the rain will be there all night and change to snow tomorrow which is a very tough situation. If it stays rain, and the visibility is ok, they can salt or put chemical on the surface to harden it and make it a fair race. But if it changes to snow and there is fresh snow on the surface, it is likely that chemical will not work and break the surface, further jeopardizing the next day. It will be a tough decision to make, especially with the overall still on the line.

The men have GS tomorrow and that globe is also on the line. Ted Ligety leads by a healthy 77 points which puts Svindal and Richard in tough positions where they will have to take risks to catch him. And he will have to get shut out. 15th is 16 points and then those two could only win if one were to win and Ted were 14th or worse. My point is that it is a tough task and if Ted stays within himself he will score enough to take the title. Weather could play a role of course and everyone in the draw will be hoping for an early number. As I wrote that, Svindal drew number one, Richard 3 and Ted number 4. That should make for some great drama headed into the race and then for the second run.

This GS hill is a tough one and bad weather and visibility will cause problems. The start, if you watched the downhill race, is on the top of the Steilhang where the left-footed double was with the deep belly ad where all the skiers were having trouble before dropping down the main pitch. It is very steep there right out of the start and left foot fall-away for the first few turns and then right foot fall-away coming off the pitch with a small compression. It is very tough for the first 8 to 10 turns. After that it flattens but it is a winding trail and takes some skill to set a course on it that has some flow and rhythm. There is also a tough left foot section as the trail bends back to the finish that has a strong fall-away. Many a run has been lost there in the past. Ted was 10th here in 2007 and Svindal won the race. But Aksel was trying to win the overall (which he did) and Ted was not yet the Ted that we now know in GS. I can see this as an excellent hill for Ted.

The FIS is already talking negatively about the weather situation with regard to tomorrow’s races. They like to do this to give everyone a low expectation of the race actually happening. So when it does happen, everyone thinks it was against the odds but also with herculean effort. It makes everyone look good if a race happens that you think will be canceled when you go to bed the night before. Realism is important in assessing these situations and being on the half-empty side of reality is only a conservative approach. Everyone will prepare like it will happen so it should not cause any kind of negativity on the side of the athletes or staffs.

As I watch Clemson and West Virginia go at each other in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, March Madness has begun. The women have also drawn their start numbers for tomorrow’s slalom race. My first impression was one of shock when I saw Nastasia Noens starting number 1. Everyone who reads this post knows that I am a fan of Ms. Noens. I think she is an up and comer in slalom and brings energy to every run along with solid skiing. But Noens did not race in Spindleruv Mlyn for a reason and the reason was a ruptured ACL. She reported on her website that she was training GS and “got back” and heard a “crack” sound. She pulled off the course and had an MRI that revealed an ACL rupture and she would require surgery. It is interesting that she is on the start list and it will be even more so if she does not race. Just wondering…. Maria Riesch starts number 2 which is a perfect number in the current conditions and Lindsey starts 16. More to Maria’s advantage is that Christian Schwaiger, the German coach, sets the first run.

Lenzerheide is a very tough slalom hill with an extremely steep and narrow start “chute.” It drops right away for about 10 to 12 turns before bending to the left and traversing a little. Then it bends back to the right and toward the finish with a lot of minor terrain and major break-overs before taking a short dive to the finish. It can be tough to get the minimum here if you like to set at 11 to 12 meters so I would think we would see 10 meter slalom again. And Schwaiger might even go for 9 meters as that might favor Maria more than Lindsey. And with Schild having wrapped up the slalom title, it has to be in the back of his mind.

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Reader Comments (4)

The men's GS has been cancelled. Ted gets the globe.

They're going to try to start the women's slalom at 11 a.m.

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdennis

About Noens: It turned out that her ACL was only partly torn, and she felt good enough after physical therapy (http://www.sport365.fr/autres-sports/sports-d-hiver/article_510177_CM-F-Noens-au-depart-.shtml). That said, she skied tentatively and looked concerned about her knee sensations in the finish. Also, while she is strong technically, she is a bit short of conditioning in general, and the break cannot have helped; this time she was out of breath at the end of a relatively short course. Since Maze came out ahead of her on points and WCSL after all, and Zuzulova confirmed her return, racing looks like it was an unnecessary risk for Noens after all. Of course, she could not have known that. In terms of WCSL, wouldn't it have been better to take injured status and preserve her point? (I have yet to find a good explanation of how injuries work with the WCSL.) Anyway, Noens should be operated soon, so at least she won't lose much more in terms of preparation for next season.

About the course set: It certainly looked like a tough slope to set on, and the snow broke to make things worse. The German coach may indeed have done Riesch a favor with a turny first run. But, I was more disturbed by the second run. The top looked good, but then it looked not only even turnier, but also badly lacking in rhythm in the end especially. I guess that is the price when one runs short of space relative to gate count? Incidentally, the Austrian coach's course did not work that well for the Austrian racers.

About Maze... what poise! Many of the bigger racers (S. Riesch, Aubert, even M. Riesch) struggled mightily in the second run, and yet Maze was reasonably smooth throughout, and very stable. How does this she do that?

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfx

Hi fx,

They used the same course set for both runs.

A small advantage for Maria Riesch because one of the German coaches set the course. On the other hand, it probably didn't matter.

I hope we get to see two races tomorrow.

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdennis

Oops... that explains the ultra-fast turnaround. Maybe the snow breaking did make it look more turny and arrythmic. Either that, or I need an eye checkup.

I did not know one could use the same course in two runs at this level of competition. Without even changing any gates? How odd!

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfx

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