World Cup skiing: Marco Sullivan rips up Wegen downhill for podium finish
WENGEN, Switzerland ” Though the three-year streak of Americans winning in Wengen was broken, the follow-up performance was far from shabby as defending World Cup champion Bode Miller and Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley were second and third, respectively, in the famed downhill Saturday.
Swiss skier Didier Defago won the race, achieving his first downhill World Cup win.
The last time two U.S. men were on the downhill podium was in 2006 when Miller and Steven Nyman of Provo, Utah, were 1-3 in Beaver Creek.
Flawless skiing on the top section of the course and charging through a big mistake was what secured the podium spot for Sullivan. It was his third career podium and best downhill result on the classic, challenging and long track. The course glides, dives and carousels before the finish line just meters from the edge of a steep cliff, which drops thousands of feet to the valley below.
“Marco skied the top like an absolute stud,” said U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick. “The first part of the course has some tough terrain and Marco skied aggressive, came out clean and aerodynamic and skied a great race. He lost a little time after that, but it was an awesome race for him.”
Sullivan was seventh in Wengen last year and 14th in 2003.
“It’s awesome. I mean, it’s a classic course and special place to do well,” Sullivan said. “This whole month of January I really set a goal of trying to be on the podium and skiing fast through World Championships. To start it off on the podium is awesome.
“Things are coming together. I’ve been skiing well; I’ve had a lot of fast sections in races but for one reason or another haven’t been able to put it all together.”
Rearick said Sullivan’s experience on the course also was a help.
“Knowing the course here is definitely a factor, and Marco really took advantage of that today,” Rearick said. “He has been skiing so well all year.”
Experience also helped defending overall champion Miller, who has won the Lauberhorn for the past two years ” last year despite crashing dramatically through the finish.
With the second-place finish, Miller collected his 16th World Cup downhill podium, his fourth at Wengen.
“I’ve shown that I can win on this course, but it was tough this year with only two training runs. The last two years I’ve used that last training run really effectively. That’s where we’ve figured out the skis,” Miller said. “I was happy with going out and putting out a hard race.”
It was the fourth top-three finish for Miller this season.
“I’m probably less concerned with the lack of results this year than a lot of people are. It’s always frustrating when you ski well. I’ve been skiing well all season, in all the events except maybe in GS, but I haven’t had any results to speak of,” Miller said.
Coaches said Sullivan started the season strong in Lake Louise, then Bormio, and now it’s all coming together for the nine-year U.S. Ski Team veteran.
“I’m really stoked to see him perform so well. It was also great to see him ski better in the training runs leading up to races, that’s something he’s been working on,” Rearick said.
After slaying the top section of the course, Sullivan lost time just before the Hundschopf, a narrow, rocky chute racers fly through to the delight of a crowd of mid-mountain onlookers.
“I had a couple of big mistakes,” he said. “On such a long course it’s sort of inevitable. I was really good up top, but then lost time just before the Hundschopf. It was not the best technique. Luckily, I was able to keep focus and charged the bottom.
“I learned that about myself today, that not giving up even after that one big mistake can turn out really well.”
Sullivan said he spent the morning before the race freeskiing by himself. There is a lot of build up to a race like the Lauberhorn, and he found some peace at the foot of the Eiger.
“There’s lots of hype, I guess, but this morning I went out and free skied by myself. It’s such a beautiful place. I checked out the Eiger and was looking around ” it’s so beautiful here. I was thinking how lucky I am to have this be what I do. It really put me in a good frame of mind.”
Another bonus for Sullivan was that his family was there to watch him race for the first time in Europe.
“I tried to make my family proud, and it worked,” he said.
1. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 2:31.98
2. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:32.18
3. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, 2:32.37
4. Ambrosi Hoffmann, Switzerland, 2:23.56
5. Manuel Osbourne-Paradis, Canada, 2:32.63
30. Andrew Weibrecht, Lake Placid, N.Y., 2:35.97
34. Erik Fisher, Middleton, Idaho, 2:36.87
39. Jeremy Transue, Hunter, N.Y., 2:39.00
DNF: Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, Wash.) Steven Nyman (Provo, Utah) TJ Lanning (Park City, Utah).
ALTENMARKT-ZAUCHENSEE ” Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., captured her second podium in as many days Sunday, finishing third in an Audi FIS World Cup downhill in Austria after winning Saturday’s super combined.
Teammate Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley finished 24th on Sunday and Stacey Cook of Truckee was 40th. Cook placed 25th on Saturday.
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