Kaufmann-Abderhalden stays on her feet to win first career Downhill in Val d’Isere

Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden on her way to winning her first World Cup race in Val d'Isere - COPYRIGHT ZOOM AGENCE

Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden will be thankful that she did not give up ski racing a few years ago as this season not only has she taken a second place, she has now added her name to the list of World Cup winners with victory in the … Val d’Isere World Cup Downhill. Kaufmann-Abderhalden won the race from a resurgent Tina Maze with young Austrian Cornelia Huetter taking third from the dreaded start number of 1. With much of the pre race attention focused on the return of Lindsey Vonn, who had her beau Tiger Woods in resort with her, Vonn pulled up midway down the course.

In a race marred with a number of crashes that saw the race held up for periods, the 27 year old Swiss racer put in the hard work at the top of the hill, then maintained her pace through the gnarly middle section before cruising down with the fastest speed by over two and a half kilometres an hour through the speed gun. Having won the World Junior title in 2006, Kaufmann-Abderhalden had been more of a journeyman racer, scoring in the 20 to 30 place positions until making a breakthrough with her first podium in 2010. She had to wait another two years before placing third again in 2012. Then earlier this season she placed second in Lake Louise and now she has a win under her belt. “I really don’t know why it started going well in Lake Louise. Here I expected more because it’s like a second home for the Swiss, but I certainly did not expect to win,” she said.

Maze has had a strange year. After dominating the World Cup last season as she scored in excess of 2400 World Cup points, she has yet to register a win this season. Rumours abound of disagreements with her coach, trouble on the home front in St Moritz was dispelled and this is now her second podium in a row.

The race had been lead for a long time by start number 1, Cornelia Huetter from Austria. Huetter, in only her ninth World Cup Downhill, posted a smooth run that had the better of many of her more experienced competition. It was in the middle section that the 21 year old Austrian made the rest of the field pay.

The OK course is one of the traditional courses and until the 2009 World Championships hosted the men for the Premier Neige Downhill. Now it is considered one of the tougher courses that the girls undertake. For the 2013 version, the course was gnarly and bumpy and racers needed to stay relaxed and strong and not be bounced around. The fact that it took an hour and a half to complete the race for the first thirty racers is explained by the fact that there were a number of big crashes that required the netting to be replaced. The biggest crash saw Marie Marchand-Arvier having to be taken off the hill in the blood wagon with injury to her shoulder.

Lindsey Vonn was another to fail to make the finish after her left leg flew up in the air and then she missed the next gate and then came to an abrupt halt clutching her right knee. As she winced by the side of the course it did not look promising for her and the worst fears were realised later. Vonn explained that she hopes to do a much reduce programme as with every race that she undertakes, it raises the possibility of further injury. “It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt,” she said.

“I’m going to stick to a similar plan that I was on before,” Vonn told the press after the race. “I just need to be more careful of how many races I do. I’m at risk of doing more damage to my knee and my meniscus. So I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics.”

With Chemmy Alcott continuing her recuperation in Val d’Isere, she plans to return to racing in the New Year in Altenmarkt.

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