Innerhofer wins SG in Schladming; WC leader Feuz struggles
by Ana Jelusic; www.fisalpine.com
Schladming, Austria (Sports Network) - For the first time since his eye- opening gold medal run at last year's world ski championships, Italian Christof Innerhofer charged to victory in the final World Cup men's super G of the season in Schladming on Thursday, edging France's Alexis Pinturault by a mere 0.02 seconds.
Those weren't the only surprises, however. Technical specialist Marcel Hirscher, in just his fourth World Cup super G start, did wonders in improving his chances to win the overall Cup, landed on the podium in third, 0.06 back.
Although he finished down the line on Thursday, Wednesday's downhill winner Aksel Lund Svindal managed to win the super G globe after his 15th-place finish while Didier Cuche, finished ninth in his very last race on the World Cup to come in second in the super G standings.
Switzerland's Beat Feuz seriously dented his chances for the overall title when he crashed out on Thursday.
"I am really happy," Innerhofer said. "This morning I told myself- Christof this is your last chance... I knew I could ski better than what I showed this season. I decided not to hold back, risk a little by taking straight lines and just enjoy this last race of the season. I am so happy; luck was a little bit on my side. When you win by that little, you have to be aware you were also a little lucky. This is such a great motivation for all the hard work that has to be done next summer."
After crashing badly in training at the beginning of the season, Innerhofer had a hard time finding his racing rhythm and now that he is finally back in his World Champion's shape (he won the Super G at the World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen last year), the season is over.
"Of course when I know that I am finally skiing this well I wish the season went on. But than I think of last week when my back was in such a bad shape that some days I had a hard time picking up my skis from the snow. I am still young, maybe it's better that I take some time off, train well and get ready for all those seasons that are still to come."
The summary of Svindal's last three days could be- a crash, a victory and a globe. Even though he didn't score any points today, finishing 16th in the race, it was not a bad day for Svindal.
"I didn't ski too good today so in a way I did not accomplish what I had in mind this morning. But, the globe is an award for the whole season and not for a single day or race so I'll take it. It was tight at the top, Didier had to be among the top four or five to beat me and there wasn't much room up there. I had a feeling that it could be tough for both Feuz and Cuche to take the globe from me but I still wanted to ski really fast and make their task as difficult as I could. I am good GS skier, and this Super G was a lot like a GS - I was just not able to find the rhythm on top and it was over for me."
By skiing all races apart form some Slaloms, Svindal can feel it's time for his body to get some rest.
"It's a long season and I am happy it's over, I will go to our Nationals in Norway, train for next year and than probably head somewhere warm."
Svindal has won the Overall twice as an all-rounder and yet today the two names in the chance for it belong to one speed and one tech specialist.
"What Hirscher did today...we have all been hearing he is good in Super G but we haven't seen it. Today he landed on the podium and that changed everything. Until just a few hours ago it was all about Feuz for the Overall and now Hirscher is really in an attacking position. It's going to be an interesting end of the season and I think that's really good for the sport. It's so tight for the Overall and both of them could win it. Those two guys, being that young will be there in the run for the Overall in many of the years to come. Some other ones too, but we'll be seeing a lot more of Feuz and Hirscher. Pinturault seems to be growing also and in my opinion he could very soon be one of the top contenders for the Overall."
If there were rumors about Hirscher's capabilities in Super G, it was hard to expect seeing Pinturault on a Super G podium.
The young French skier has had an impressive series- three races entered, three different disciplines and three podiums finishes.
"Of course I am a little surprised by this first podium in Super G. My goal is to get faster and faster in the speed disciplines and push hard at every race. I don't think I'll be ready to chance the Overall already next season but in two, three years that will for sure be my goal. This morning I was not really considering a podium, I knew I had a good number and I was looking for some points. The slope and snow suited me well so it all worked better than expected."
As everyone is talking about who will win the Overall, Pinturault has his guy picked.
"Beat has an extra discipline if we compare him to Hirscher, but it's still so close between the two of them. After the mistake Beat made today, now the fight is getting even more interesting. If I had to chose today, I think Hirscher has a better chance of winning."
Hirscher on the other hand seems really calm and focused, there is a lot of pressure building up around him but the young Austrian seems to be able to control his nerves really well.
"I am so happy, I couldn't have dreamed about things going this way," Hirscher said. "I think we all expected I could do some points today, but I would have been the first to lose a lot of money if I would have bet on myself. Super G means Super Giant Slalom so I think it should have been set more often like it was today, if that happens I will be racing more often. Today was not good for Feuz but great for me and I am still in the game so in order to make it I need to be focused and do my best. I'm excited about those last to races, it's a big pleasure to be competing for the Overall in the Finals."
Things are not going as well as everyone wished for Cuche, a great champion like him deserves to leave the Tour with a smile and Cuche has not been really satisfied with his 17th place finish in Wednesday's Downhill and ninth in today's Super G.
Cuche is looking forward to skiing the GS, which will be officially the last race of his impressive and long career.
"I am feeling ok now, I am still looking forward to the GS on Saturday and am just happy that at the moment I am able to have my emotions under control."
Tomorrow the men and ladies will be joining forces in the Team Event. This will give some skiers an extra day to rest, train and get ready for the tech events scheduled for this weekend.
OFFICIAL RESULTS - Schladming, Austria
Men's Super G
1. Christof Innerhofer, ITA, 1:21.24; 2. Alexis Pinturault, FRA, 1:11.26; 3. Marcel Hirscher, AUT, 1:21.30; 4. Matteo Marsaglia, ITA, 1:21.46; 5. Hannes Reichelt, AUT, 1:21.53; 5. Benjamin Raich, AUT, 1:21.53; 7. Matthias Mayer, AUT, 1:21.71; 8. Kjetil Jansrud, NOR, 1:21.72; 9. Didier Cuche, SUI, 1:22.01; 10. Ted Ligety, USA, 1:22.07.
Other North Americans
12. Jan Hudec, CAN, 1:22.27; 19. Erik Guay, CAN, 1:23.03.
Did not finish 1st run
Andrew Weibrecht, USA
03/15 09:59:27 ET