LA TUILE, Italy — Lindsey Vonn was incensed after losing her ski and the World Cup lead in a tricky downhill Friday, frustrated and fuming over her equipment
“My ski came off,” she said, underlining her anger with an expletive.
Swiss rival Lara Gut won and moved 13 points ahead of Vonn in the overall ranks with the season approaching its conclusion next month.
Vonn was the last of the favourites to start and was ahead of Gut at the first checkpoint but then her right ski detached on a sharp turn at about 75 kph (50 mph) and she slid down the course on her hip.
“I’m really confused at how this happened. I have to watch the video again,” Vonn said, showing off her bent ski in the finish area. “The whole thing is a little bit perplexing to me. Normally none of this should happen.”
Gut finished a whopping 1.02 seconds ahead of Cornelia Huetter of Austria, with Nadia Fanchini of Italy third, 1.03 back, as the Franco Berthod course in the shadows of Mont Blanc made its debut on the circuit.
Vonn came in much wider than Gut to the turn where she went out.
“I was getting a little bit bounced by the ice there and I was a little bit inside of my body position and my ski just came off,” Vonn said. “I’m definitely disappointed. I thought I was skiing pretty well. … That’s pretty much the one thing besides the weather you can’t control. I did my job and hopefully tomorrow my skis will also do their job.”
The American said she didn’t have any serious injuries and would be ready for another downhill Saturday.
“I’ll probably be pretty bruised,” Vonn said. “I slid on my hip for quite a ways.”
Perhaps more worrying is that Vonn has now lost one of her fastest skis. She’s been using only two pairs of skis in downhill and the ski that was bent had been used during her recent wins in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Heinz Haemmerle, Vonn’s ski technician at Head, defended his equipment preparation.
“It was so bumpy and then the binding came off. She was on the inside ski and then the outside ski was (wobbling) and hit a bump,” Haemmerle told The Associated Press. “It can happen.”
Haemmerle called Vonn’s reaction “normal” in the heat of the moment.
“She understands. She’s still upset,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen.”
Haemmerle explained that he already tightens Vonn’s bindings to level 18 and fears turning them up to a maximum of 20 — what the men use — because then her skis might not pop off in a fall.
“I can’t turn it up anymore,” the ski technician said. “That would be too dangerous.”
More technical than most women’s downhills, the Berthod piste won praise from Gut.
“It’s a challenge but I prefer a challenge (to) a highway so that’s good,” said Gut, who used a different tactic on the turn where Vonn went out from most other skiers — checking her skis sideways in a move normally reserved for giant slalom.
“You really have to stay on the ski. It helps if you ski aggressive — it’s easier to make the turns,” Gut said. “But it’s a fine line between winning and being out.”
It was the 18th win of Gut’s career and her sixth this season, which is developing into the best of her career.
“A lot can change in one day,” Gut said.
Friday’s race was originally scheduled for Crans-Montana last weekend but was moved due to excessive snowfall in the Swiss resort.
Laurenne Ross was the top American in fifth, matching her result in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, two weeks ago.
“It feels good to be in the top five again,” Ross said. “I’m feeling more comfortable now than I have all year.”
Vonn still holds a big lead in the downhill discipline standings and can clinch her eighth season-long crystal globe title Saturday.
“I’m definitely going to be fired up tomorrow, that’s for sure,” Vonn said. “I know what to do on this course. … Hopefully I’ll execute a little better and hopefully my skis will stay on.”
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf
Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press
photos Janos Schmidt