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World Cup favorites struggle at worlds

 Germany's Maria Riesch reacts after completing the second run of the women's slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirch...
 Croatia's Ivica Kostelic reacts after completing the first run during the men's slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenki...

Germany Alpine Skiing Worlds

Germany's Maria Riesch reacts after completing the second run of the women's slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirch...

Germany Alpine Skiing Worlds

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic reacts after completing the first run during the men's slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenki...

If this season's World Cup had been any guide, a majority of the gold medals at these world championships would be hanging around the necks of Ivica Kostelic, Lindsey Vonn and Maria Riesch.
But the two-week worlds, which closed Sunday with slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange earning France its second gold after the team event, were a completely different story.
Racers who are dominating the World Cup circuit did not perform up to expectations here _ for various reasons.
Ski racing's tight schedule has taken its toll on many athletes, resulting in injury or illness.
It prompted coaches to ask International Ski Federation FIS for schedule changes when it comes to major events like world championships and Olympic Games.
"We put forward a proposal to have a seven-day window prior to the world championships," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said. "I think it's necessary just to regroup and get prepared for such a big event."
Vonn called the speed-race course in the early days of the worlds "too dangerous for the women. It's too icy. It's unsafe ... It's way too icy and I am basically shocked by it. It's unbelievable."
During the first week, mild temperatures softened the snow but it could not cheer up the American, who was battling the lingering after effects of a mild concussion following a training crash less than a week before the start of the worlds.
She said she was "skiing like in a fog" and lost her super-G and downhill titles _ though placed second in the latter event _ before sitting out the technical events in the second week.
"You got to make sure that your athletes are healthy," U.S. women's coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. "I think it was the right decision to pull out then, to get 100 percent back and to be ready to rock in the World Cup."
Vonn's downhill silver matched Julia Mancuso's feat in super-G, which made Hoedlmoser feel "happy ... considering the fact that Lindsey was not a 100 percent, we did fine."
With Vonn down and then out, and main rival and close friend Riesch slowed down by a fever, the highly anticipated showdown between the leading characters of women's ski racing never lived up to its expectations.
The German, who leads the overall World Cup standings ahead of Vonn, won bronze at super-G and downhill, but did not dominate the worlds in het hometown like the many German fans had hoped.
Not the United States nor Germany, but Austria led the final medal rankings with four golds and eight medals in total.
The Austrian women won all but one event _ the giant slalom, which went to Tina Maze for the first Slovenian gold ever.
Austria's Elisabeth Goergl completed the speed double like Vonn two years ago by winning both downhill and super-G. Anna Fenninger was a surprise winner of the super-combined, while Marlies Schild finally won the slalom gold medal she had been looking for all her career.
"Our women's team had their best world championships ever," Austria Alpine director Hans Pum said. "Our athletes raced sensationally .. I am proud of the whole team."
The Austrian women made up for the men's team, which was struck by a string of injuries. It lost Hans Grugger, Mario Scheiber, Georg Streitberger and Marcel Hirscher shortly before the worlds, while Benjamin Raich and Hannes Reichelt got injured during the event.
"Regarding the many injuries, I am satisfied with their results," said Pum, referring to a silver (Reichelt) and a bronze medal (Philipp Schoerghofer). "They did not wallow in self-pity but looked forward and focused on the races."
On the men's side, some races got their predicted winners, like Grange in slalom, Ted Ligety of the United States in GS and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway in super-combined.
Svindal became the only 2009 champion to recapture his title, but missed out on an expected second medal in GS.
"I was disappointed for sure but I have a gold from the combined," said Svindal, who called his showing at the worlds "pretty good ... That's the way it is. As long as you are in the fight for the medals, sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't."
Less predictable were downhill gold for Canada's Erik Guay and the super-G title for Italy's Christof Innerhofer, who also took silver in downhill and bronze in super-combined, making him "feel as happy as if I won three golds."


Updated : 2021-10-23 11:05 GMT+08:00