This Cup season, a national deficit

By Tony Chamberlain
Globe Correspondent / January 8, 2009
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The US Alpine ski team enjoyed a historic run last winter, but this season has been quite different.

Lindsey Vonn, the reigning World Cup overall champion, is an example of how luck can change fortunes.

Vonn entered last Sunday's slalom race in Zagreb, Croatia, leading the overall World Cup points standings and, after her first run, she also led the race by a hearty .43 seconds.

In the second run, Vonn let it rip and was poised to win the race by more than a second. After a small mistake at the top of the course, the native of Vail, Colo., powered up again and won the first two interval times.

But at the bottom, Vonn made another mistake and crashed, handing the win to German rookie Maria Riesch, who has won three World Cup slaloms this season.

A good friend of Vonn's, Riesch commented after the race, "I'm sorry for [her]. She was doing great and had the lead. I couldn't beat her today if she didn't go out. But that's how skiing is."

Vonn dropped to third in the overall standings with 530 points, trailing Riesch (607 points) and Finland's Tanja Poutiainen (543).

On the men's side, last year's overall World Cup leader, Bode Miller from Franconia, N.H., is hanging around in 10th place with 290 points. Miller hurt his chances of repeating by getting disqualified from a slalom race in Zagreb Tuesday because his boots were found to be one-hundredth of an inch too high for regulation equipment.

The race was won by France's Jean-Baptiste Grange, who now holds the overall lead with 466 points, ahead of Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal with 444 points and Austria's Benny Raich at 433.

Miller isn't the only American struggling in the standings. Ted Ligety is 11th with 279 points, Marco Sullivan 18th at 181, and T.J. Lanning 33d at 95.

US skiers finished third in a pair of NorAm races at Sunday River this week. David Chodounsky, a member of Dartmouth's NCAA champion Alpine team in 2007, placed third with a combined time of 1 minute 59.47 seconds.

The winner was Norway's Leif Kristian Haugen (1.58.48) and second was Canada's Robbie Dixon (1:58.67).

In the giant slalom, 18-year-old Will Gregorak edged out teammate Warner Nickerson for third place with a time of 2:18.17. The race was won by Norway's Petter Brenna (2:17.14) and second place went to Dixon (2:17.69).

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