American women struggle in combined | SierraSun.com

American women struggle in combined

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

BEAVER CREEK — Lindsey Vonn said earlier in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships that she was banking on a "slim chance" of winning a medal in the alpine combined event, but in the end, the speed star was unable to pull off the feat.

Vonn, 30, had equipment troubles early on and was suffering from a sore knee, something she attributed to the icy Raptor downhill course. In the slalom run — a discipline in which she does not train — she was disqualified after straddling a gate midway through the course.

Laurenne Ross was the top American finisher in 14th place, while Squaw Valley skier Julia Mancuso followed in 15th and newcomer Jacqueline Wiles was 17th.

A disappointing Championships

“I’ll try to have fun with it instead of stress out. It’s nice to be home and competing in front of a home crowd.”Julia Mancuso, Team USA

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Vonn struggled through her downhill run, in un-Lindsey-like fashion, appearing off balance and fighting to keep her skis from sliding out. The downhill run was still fast enough for a top-10 finish in the first portion, although she started the slalom 1.3 seconds behind the leaders.

"I just didn't feel like I had any grip whatsoever. I talked to the (equipment technicians), and they said I hit a rock," she said. "It's pretty hard to hold an edge when you have no edge. I tried my best, but this ice doesn't really feel good on my knee. It's pretty sore."

Vonn predicted that, especially with her aching knee, it would be tough to excel in the slalom.

"Wow, I did not have a good feeling out there this morning. The ice is brutal on the body/knee. Will do my best in the slalom this p.m.!" she wrote on her Twitter feed after the downhill portion.

After her failed slalom run, Vonn left the race course in tears.

"I'm just really disappointed. The whole time at the World Championships, I just tried as hard as I could, and that's just disappointing for myself and for my family and my fans," she said. "Especially since I skied really good slalom in training the last two days, I thought I really had a chance at getting a medal."

She plans to ski the giant slalom event on Thursday, which will be her last event of the Championships.

A speed team on a slalom course

None of the other Americans in Monday's race were slalom specialists either, and several said they had no expectations for the combined race.

Mancuso did not have the downhill run that she hoped for, finishing the first portion of the race 2.5 seconds behind the leaders with a bobble near the top of Raptor.

"I haven't really gotten in the groove of this course. After I messed up on that first part, I had a little bit of a hard time getting back into it," she said, adding that she was trying to enjoy the home crowds instead of worrying about her finish.

"I'll try to have fun with it instead of stress out. It's nice to be home and competing in front of a home crowd. It hasn't been my World Championships so far, but it's a ton of fun to be here and see the support for ski racing," she said.

Wiles, 22, was competing in her first World Championships event. The Oregon native was skiing with a tweaked shoulder that she re-injured when she fell in training earlier this week.

"It is my first World Championships and also my second alpine combined. The only other one I've done was in a Nor-Am race. It's a big event, so it was fun to try it again," she said. "I'm glad I had two OK runs and a good experience."

Melanie Wong is Assistant Managing Editor at the Vail Daily, one of the Sun's sister papers in Colorado.