Winter Sports Notebook

Course injections leave Vonn dejected

Associated Press / January 25, 2010

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Lindsey Vonn was encouraged simply by making it to the finish yesterday in her weakest discipline, the giant slalom.

The 19th-place result wasn’t exactly what she was aiming for after consecutive victories in super-G and downhill the past two days, however, and Vonn was critical of the way officials injected the course at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with water to create a more icy surface.

“Here in Cortina it’s the best snow on earth - it doesn’t get any better than this. They had a perfect track and in my opinion they ruined it,’’ Vonn said. “There’s no need whatsoever for injection on this hill.’’

The race winner, Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, also questioned the practice, which is meant to make the course hold up throughout the race. Often in the technical races of slalom and giant slalom, courses get worn down with ruts and later starters have little chance of being competitive.

The problem this time was that water injection was used only on the bottom section of the course, with the snow untouched on the top.

“The conditions were changing from top to bottom. They watered the 10 gates at the bottom,’’ Poutiainen said. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to have two different types of conditions on the course. Someone said it would have been very soft on the bottom, but I don’t know.’’

Poutiainen posted a two-run combined time of 2 minutes 26.51 seconds on the Olympia delle Tofane course. Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany finished a distant 1.05 seconds behind for the first podium result of her career, and giant slalom world champion Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany placed third, 1.45 behind.

Giant slalom is the only discipline in which Vonn has never finished on the podium. She failed to score a point in her previous four GS races, failing to finish the last three.

Vonn retained a 56-point lead in the overall World Cup standings ahead of Germany’s Maria Riesch, who finished eighth.

Miller skips slalom
Felix Neureuther of Germany earned his first career World Cup victory, winning a slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austria, that Bode Miller skipped to rest a sore ankle. Neureuther finished in a two-run combined time of 1:37.35 on the same mountain his father won on 31 years ago. Miller didn’t race because his right ankle hurt too much after warm-ups. The US ski team said he was expected to start at a night slalom in nearby Schladming tomorrow. Ted Ligety was the top American in 23d . . . Daron Rahlves, on the cusp of his fourth Winter Olympics, won two of three heats to make it to the World Cup skicross finals at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, N.Y., before faltering to a fourth-place finish behind winner Christopher Delbosco of Canada. The US freestyle team will be announced tomorrow, and Rahlves, 36, and Casey Puckett, recovering from a shoulder separation, are expected to be picked in skicross. Rahlves’s previous three trips to the Olympics were on the Alpine squad. Canada’s Kelsey Serwa won the women’s race.

Halfpipe full
Shaun White celebrated his spot on the US Olympic halfpipe team by putting together one of the most dazzling runs of his career Saturday night in Park City, Utah, scoring a 49.5 - a half-point shy of perfection - to win his fourth US Snowboarding Grand Prix event this season. White is the leader of what US halfpipe coach Mike Jankowski called “the strongest team ever,’’ heady praise for a program that’s won 10 of 18 possible medals since the sport was introduced at Nagano 12 years ago. While the men’s team features some new faces, a trio of Olympic veterans will compete on the women’s side, led by Kelly Clark, a gold medalist in 2002, and Hannah Teter of Belmont, Vt., who is donating her $10,000 winnings from the Grand Prix event to the relief effort in Haiti.