U.S. skiing doesn't take any time off; more Olympic notes
So much for the idea that Lindsey Vonn and the rest of the U.S. ski team would have a down season in the post-Olympic year. Vonn and fellow Olympic champ Ted Ligety both earned decisive victories in World Cup events as the Cup tour made its annual fall pass through North America. Vonn captured the Super G race in Lake Louise, Alberta on Sunday, while Ligety won the giant slalom event on the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, Colo. It marked the first time since 2006 that two U.S. alpine skiers had won World Cup events on the same day.
"Today I dropped the hammer a little bit and believed in myself," said Vonn, who made an amazing save in avoiding a crash on the downhill course a day earlier when she took second behind Maria Riesch of Germany. In the Super G, Vonn finished .83 seconds ahead of Riesch. Vonn's teammate, Julia Mancuso, finished third, .06 behind Riesch.
An hour later, Vonn was cheering on by phone as Ligety won his event by nearly the same margin.
"I've been close here a lot of years," Ligety said, "and it feels awesome to finally get it."
Ligety's decision to choose an aggressive line along the course paid off and he increased his lead considerably on the second half of his second run. His combined time of two minutes, 37.67 seconds, left him .82 seconds ahead of runner-up Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. The same plan of action backfired on Ligety's teammate Bode Miller, who finished in 27th. Miller caught a dense patch of snow near the top of the course and never built enough momentum to make up time.
The German word for revenge is "rache" and the German's venerable bobsledders got some over the weekend against Steven Holcomb and the U.S. quartet. German sleds took the first three places at a World Cup event in Calgary, while Holcomb, the Olympic champion driver who got off to a fast start this season, settled for fifth. Manuel Manchata drove his crew to victory, while veterans Karl Angerer and Maximilian Arndt drove sleds to silver and bronze. Holcomb's crew had a sub-par second run, taking too high a line on two decisive turns and leaving the Olympic champ to say, "I just drove terribly today ... I won't make the same mistakes again."
Tucker Fredricks won the 500-meter long-track speed skating event in Changchun, China, finishing a scant hundredth of a second ahead of Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands. Fredricks, a world medalist in the 500 in 2007, started quickly, as usual, but pulled wide on his second turn and figured he had cost himself a victory. Still, other skaters also had problems with the inconsistent ice and made similar errors that cost them batches of time.
Look out for Heather Richardson, a U.S. Olympian showing early signs of a breakthrough season. Richardson, 21, won her second silver medal in as many races in the 1,000, finishing behind Olympic champ Christine Nesbitt of Canada. Nesbitt has won all three World Cup races this season in the 1,000. After ninth-place finishes in the 500 and 1,000 at the Vancouver Olympics, Richardson still has a way to go and hasn't put her entire life on hold. She works part-time at Bath and Body Works in Salt Lake City, Utah and is eyeing dental hygiene school. Earlier this season, Fredricks and Richardson swept the 500 at the U.S. championships in West Allis, Wis.
Included among the thousands of potentially embarrassing documents released recently by Wikileaks was an evaluation of the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio in which the U.S. government expressed fears about the security of the Games and the host's ability to stage them.
The document said that Rio "faces critical challenges in preparing for the 2016 Games ... There remain, however, significant problems that could impact the success of the Games, especially in terms of addressing security concerns."
The document referenced a gunfight on Oct. 17 in which gangs located in one of the city's infamous crime-ridden favelas shot down a police helicopter. A subsequent raid by police, however, inflicted severe damage on the infrastructure of the gangs.
Soon after the debacle at the scandal-plagued 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, two bidders have emerged as leading candidates to host the 2018 Games. The Gold Coast in Australia currently has the bid many consider a front-runner, but Hambantota, Sri Lanka has created a bid committee that may also appeal to voters who want to see the Games reach into new territory. Mark Stockwell, a three-time Olympic medalist in swimming at the Los Angeles Olympics, is chairing the bid for the Gold Coast. The 2014 Games are slated for Glasgow, Scotland.