Sullivan scores first World Cup podium finish
Two-time Olympian Marco Sullivan of Truckee earned the first podium of his World Cup career at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, on Saturday. Sullivan, who battled back from knee injuries for two years, barreled through biting cold and tricky light to finish second in the opening Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill of the season.
Canadian Jan Hudec, silver medalist in downhill at the 2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, won the race with a time of 1:42.79. Sullivan, who started No. 2, covered the 2.9K course in 1:43.03. Steven Nyman of Provo, Utah, was 15th, with Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, N.H.) 20th and Scott Macartney (Kirkland, Wash.) 29th.
“I’ve been skiing fast in the last few weeks of the prep period and had some good training runs,” Sullivan said. “I was ready to throw down a good one despite the tough conditions. My Nordicas [skis] were on fire today.
“I knew I was having a solid run, but I wasn’t sure where it would stack up because the conditions were so variable. I was almost two seconds ahead of No. 1. But, then when Hudec came down ” Jan and I have raced together for years ” and was first, I knew being two-tenths away from him would be good.
“He won yesterday’s final training, so I felt good about being close,” Sullivan said. “I was telling someone he and I have had a lot of knee surgeries between us, so it’s even nicer for us to be 1-2 on the podium. And, really, I think there’s more for me. This isn’t it.”
An overcast sky created tricky visibility for the first 30 skiers, and intermittent winds added to the difficult situation.
“Snow conditions stayed fantastic all day, but we had a good feeling before the race for how the guys would do,” U.S. downhill coach Chris Brigham said. “When Marco ran it was pretty flat light, but he skied tremendously. He took advantage of the opportunity. Races up here are usually super tight, so you have to be clean.”
After tearing ligaments in his right knee during a DH training crash at Beaver Creek early in the 2004 season, the podium was another huge step in Sullivan’s comeback. He underwent nearly two seasons of knee surgeries leading to the 2006 Olympics. A year ago, he was fourth in a downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, just one-hundredth of a second away from the podium. Saturday, Sullivan would not be denied.
“This [podium] was certainly worth the wait,” Sullivan said. “It sets a good platform for me for the season. I’m heading to Beaver Creek and I’m ready to keep it rolling.
The snow drought in the Rockies forced organizers, who had made snow to cover the course, to drop the start about 150 meters to get it off the windswept, steep section at the top of the run.
Sullivan placed 35th in the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super G of the season Sunday, while U.S. teammates Nyman and Macartney broke into the top 20, finishing 13th and 17th. Sullivan started 59th.
Defending World Cup overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won with a time of 1:29.19. Nyman was 13th in 1:30.35 and Macartney finished 17th. Miller, the World Cup SG champion, was 25th.
Olympic champion Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley produced the fifth-fastest second run Saturday in an Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom at Panorama Resort, B.C.
Denise Karbon of Italy won in 2:42.71. Mancuso was 10th in 2:44.47.
“It was close,” U.S. women’s Slalom/GS Head Coach Chris Knight said. “‘Jules made a big mistake on the bottom of her first run ” it was so dark for the first five or six girls on that first run ” and it left her too much to make up. But she let it go in the second run again and moved up to a top-10 finish.”
American Resi Stiegler finished ninth Sunday to lead U.S. women in an Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom. Mancuso finished 16th.
World Cup slalom champion Marlies Schild of Austria won her second straight SL in 1:39.95.
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