There are superlatives that you can use with Lindsey Vonn yet once used, the next time she rocks up to the Canadian resort, you have to delve into the dictionary and find even better ones. This was her fifth straight win in Lake Louise, her tenth downhill, her twelfth race in all. You could say that she likes the place. A few may have felt that after the last few weeks where she was laid low, that this was the best chance they would get if they were to dethrone her from her favourite slope. No chance. Vonn is made of stern stuff and she gave the rest of the field a first class lesson on how to ski the course. 1.73seconds was the difference between her and her fellow American, Stacey Cook in second. The gap from first to second may have been huge, the next three racers were covered by a meagre hundredth of a second! Stacey Cook in second with Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Weirather sharing third.
This was not a race for the fair weather racers: Many had to battle the elements in some form or other: Wind, light and even snow. The firat twenty or so racers had average conditions and then the wind grew and the light dropped and with Lindsey Vonn down in the finish along with Cook, Hoefl-Riesch and Weirather, Lara Gut was stopped mid run and given a rerun due to the appalling conditions. It was hard of Anna Fenninger, who many thought was right up there with a chance of challenging for the podium.
After the race, Vonn commented: â€œâ€œIt’s been a rough couple of weeks for me being sick and not having the best results in the technical events. I love it here in Lake Louise. I love going fast. I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and I didn’t do the training run, which I’ve never done before in my life! So I was nervous today, but I knew what I had to do. I know this hill better than anywhere else in the world, I gave it my best shot, and I’m really happy with my run.â€
For Cook, this was her first podium yet she had told herself before the race that this was going to be her day. She has had too many places just off the podium and, in the words of Vonn, “has been skiing awesome in November.” This was the time that she stepped up to take her maiden podium.
The race kicked off with a superb performance by 24 year old Austrian, Steffi Moser. Moser has slowly been gathering experience on the Europa Cup tour, including winning the Downhill Title twice in 2009 and 2011. Moser, from the Alpbachtal near Innsbruck, started 2 and gave her compatriot Nicole Schmidhofer and lesson in how to ski the conditions to grab the lead. While Cook knocked her off the lead, by 14 hundredths, she managed to hold on to take 5th place and her best world cup result to date.
After Gut had been flagged the race was halted for the conditions to improve and when they did restart, those still around watching the race were treated to seeing one of the biggest smiles erupt in the finish as Chemmy Alcott came back from two years out injured to place 24th. It was down the same course two years ago that Alcott had a ankle break that has seen her work so hard to get back to the level she was before accident. The self belief inside her never waivered and this was proof that if you work hard then things do happen even when all those apart from your closest supporters fall away.
Alcott has answered her doubters in the best way possible by posting this result. Although she was bumped down to 25th at the end of the day, the magnitude of this result should not be forgotten. The mental hardship of coming back to racing at the same slope where you had a potentially career ending crash, is immense. To score World Cup points in the next race you do there really is a great way to say “I am back!” Alcott’s top split, 5th best at the time she went, showed she can race with the best of them.
Vonn may have won the race in commanding style but Alcott won the hearts of the fans with this performance.