SCHLADMING, Austria – Like the men’s race, the last super G of the 2011-2012 ladies World Cup season brought a couple of jostles and surprises. The most exciting of those was German giant slalom princess Viktoria Rebensburg, who took advantage of her early start number to power down the flat, rolling 2013 world champion course to land her first ever super G win.
“I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I won today,” Rebensburg said right after the race. “I’ve had a good season in GS and I knew I could be fast in super G, but I never expected this.”
The German, who previously had a trio of eighth places as her top results in the discipline, crossed the finish line of Thursday’s super G in 1 minute, 24.54 seconds. Julia Mancuso flew into second place Thursday, just 0.18 seconds behind Rebensburg, also landing behind Lindsey Vonn in second place for the super G standings. Mancuso has had an amazingly consistent season in super G. She notched the big victory in Garmisch-Partenkirchen a few weeks ago, started off with a podium in Lake Louise and never skied worse than eighth place all season.
“Volkl has really good super G skis – that’s one of the reasons I’ve been doing so well,” Mancuso said. “Super G is a really difficult event. You have to nail your inspection. Those times I wasn’t on the podiums this year – fifth place, eighth place – I feel like I knew I messed up. So it’s cool to be skiing that fast in one event.”
Another big surprise Thursday was France’s Marion Rolland, who, after landing her first ever World Cup podium in Wednesday’s final downhill race, followed up with a third place (0.21 away from the win) in the super G, a discipline in which she had never previously scored even a top 10.
“It’s amazing,” Rolland said. “I really wanted to make a podium in downhill, but in super G, it’s just the cherry on the cake. I like this course – it’s a slope with all the conditions, the forest, the hidden gates. Perhaps a jump for world championships next year … it would be even better.”
Lindsey Vonn won the 2012 super G title – her fourth straight in the discipline and the 16th globe of her career – but ended up sixth in the race. The American speed queen was setting a trail of fire down the course and was 1.22 seconds ahead at the third split but then slid wide over the last pitch and dumped her speed, finishing 0.57 seconds off the winning pace.
The result was still enough to give her 453 points for the super G globe and Mancuso surged into second place with 381 points and Anna Fenninger, fourth in the race and 0.53 off the winning pace, ended up third in the super G standings with a total of four podiums in the discipline throughout the season and 369 points.
Vonn was hoping to wrap up her mission of surpassing Hermann Maier’s World Cup season record of 2,000 points. After Thursday’s sixth place, she is up to 1,948.
“I felt like I skied really well today,” Vonn said. “I came in (to the bottom part of the course) with a little more speed than most of the girls and my line was too direct. I made a mistake and lost a lot of time … that’s something that happens sometimes in super G. It’s disappointing because I was on a good track to make 2,000 points, but I still have two races left so I’ll try to do well in the last GS and slalom. It’s tough sometimes to gauge your speed and your line in super G, but I’m really excited to get this title. It’s been a tough one this year. Anna Fenninger and Jules have been giving me a run for my money.”
Rebensburg is looking forward to taking the confidence from this last speed race into next season, but will first focus on wrapping up her second straight GS title on Sunday.
“It means a lot to me, I had a struggle in super G last season – a lot of DNFs, so finishing the super G season with a win is unbelievable,” Rebensburg said. “I knew I could be able to ski in the top five, but winning is always so special. I’m really happy about that.”
Other top performances in Thursday’s super G included that of American Leanne Smith, who notched a career best, finishing just ahead of Vonn in fifth place, 0.55 off the pace. Tina Maze more or less secured her place of second behind Vonn in the overall standings with her seventh-place (0.82 seconds) finish, as she now has 1382 overall poitns and Maria Hoefl-Riesch, 17th on Thursday, has 1195 with just two races left.
It was a tearful day for Swedish ski icon Anja Paerson, who skied the last race of her 14-year World Cup career and finished eighth, 0.94 seconds back, which proved her top result of the season. After she crossed the finish line, she was swarmed by her teammates and doused with champagne, then rallied the team to join her in her trademark belly slide.
The 2012 Audi FIS World Cup Finals continue with the Nations Team event on Friday, followed by ladies slalom and men’s GS Saturday then wrapping up with ladies GS and men’s slalom Sunday.
By Shauna Farnell