SCHLADMING, Austria – Viktoria Rebensburg could have come into the final giant slalom race of the 2011-2012 Audi FIS World Cup season and taken it easy and still landed the GS title.
But as she herself said right after Sunday’s race in Schladming, “I’m a ski racer. I always want to be on the top and win. Today everything worked out. I’m so, so happy now.”
Thus, the German heard her national anthem twice – once for winning the globe (her second straight in GS) and also for winning the race.
Rebensburg established a solid lead after the first run and maintained it even as the summery temperatures and bright sun rapidly softened the snow on course. The same lineup as that which led the first run ended up taking the podium: Rebensburg in first with a combined time of 2 minutes, 27.24 seconds, home girl Anna Fenninger in second, 0.64 seconds back and Italian Federica Brignone in third, 1.24 seconds back.
Rebensburg earned the second GS title of her career with 650 points. Lindsey Vonn came in second with 455 points and Tessa Worley – fourth in the final race – came in third for the GS season with 446 points.
Vonn’s day was somewhat bittersweet. Although she collected the fourth overall title of her Cup career – becoming the only American to ever do so – collected her 16th globe, having once again won the downhill, super G and super-combined globes this season, the freshest emotion for Vonn was that which came with her final race of the season.
On Saturday with her solid eighth-place finish and 1,980 overall points, Vonn surpassed Janica Kostelic as the female World Cup skier with the most points earned in a single season. On Sunday, she was vying to outdo Hermann Maier’s record of 2,000 points. She could have done this with a 12th-place finish or better in the final GS race. She was in 16th place after the first run, strategically planning a good start position for run No. 2. As happens often in the sport of ski racing, plans changed instantly. Pushing out of the start gate, Vonn’s right ski pole stuck in the snow and she did the entire run without it, ending up 24th and not tallying any additional points.
“I’m pretty focused on goals. No doubt, I am extremely happy with my season. I’m very satisfied, but I always feel I can do better,” Vonn said. “Today was pretty frustrating. I’ve never lost a pole in my entire life – not even when I was 2 years old. The points are not my main goal. But 2,000 is a very, very large amount of points, as I realized this season. Now I have new motivation for next season.”
Rebensburg couldn’t have ended her season any better. She finished the GS season with one DNF but otherwise a fourth place as her worst GS result, notching seven podiums, including the last four races of the season with three wins. On Thursday in Schladming, the 22-year-old also landed the first super G victory of her World Cup career.
“It couldn’t end on a higher note to win my last GS here,” Rebensburg said. “I’m really satisfied. It was a really cool final race and a really cool season.”
Crossing the finish line in the lead with thousands of Austrian flags waving gave Fenninger an alluring sample of what to expect for next year’s World Championships in Schladming.
“It was my goal to end on home soil with a good result,” she said. “The course conditions were really difficult today. It was so warm. Just going through the finish line and hearing the crowd … this is what makes you happy.”
Sunday’s podium in the last race was Brignone’s second after last weekend’s second place in Are. The Italian had some rough moments this season but was also thrilled to close with such positive momentum for next season.
“I’m really happy,” Brignone said. “To be on the podium today is really important for the next season. There were so many people watching the race, the atmosphere was great. It was a lot of fun.”
The only ladies to fail to complete Sunday’s final race were Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who slid sideways and missed a gate in the first run – notching her fourth straight DNF in a GS race, and Manuela Moelgg, who did an inadvertent 180-degree spin in the second run and crashed.
After Worley in fourth Sunday, 1.55 seconds back, the rest of the field was well over 2 seconds behind Rebensburg’s winning time. Julia Mancuso took fifth place, 2.23 seconds back, Irene Curtoni also ended her season on a high note in sixth, 2.35 seconds back and France’s Anemone Marmottan charged to seventh place, 2.36 seconds back. Then came a parade of more Austrians – 2012 slalom champion Marlies Schild was eighth, 2.39 seconds back, Stefanie Koehle ninth, 2.40 seconds back and Eva-Maria Brem 10th, 2.59 seconds back.
by Shauna Farnell
Here is some video with Lindsey Vonn from the post-race press conference.