GOLD rush at the World Championships

February 22nd, 2011

The 2011 World Championships will be remembered for the total domination of the speed events by the HEAD female racers. Lizz Goergl stood up to the counter and dominated the speed races: GOLD in Super G on the opening day; GOLD in the Downhill and she also won the Downhill section of the Super Combi. With Anna Fenninger focusing hard between runs of the Super Combi to grab the Gold and then the men brought home the Golds as well: Aksel Lund Svindal proved what an immense all round skier he is in the Super Combined and then who can forget the determination that Ted Ligety demonstrated to come from 4th after the first run to win the GOLD in the Giant Slalom.

Five Gold medals only tell half the HEAD story at the World Championships.
The brutal conditions that met the racers for the first race of the 2011 World Alpine Ski Championships really separated the elite athletes from the rest. The ice, the bumps and the light all gave the racers plenty to think about: Some racers were more vocal in their opinions than others but by the time that Lizz Goergl hit the wand to start her World Championships, there was nothing going to stop her in her quest to prove that she is one of the best speed skiers in the World.

All the talk leading up to the races was the duel between two other members of the Speedoholics Team: World Cup Overall leader Maria Riesch and the leader in the World Cup Super G and Downhill disciplines Lindsey Vonn. Lizz Goergl did not read the script and tore in to the course to win the GOLD and while Riesch won the bronze for HEAD as well, Vonn placed 7th. This was a near perfect start for HEAD. Things would get even better!

Much had also been expected on day two of the Championships with the Men’s Super G: Cuche was in great form coming into the Championships; Svindal was back to winning ways and Miller, wow, split times at numerous different races leading up to the World Championships were showing that Bode Miller would be a serious contender in the races. Miller was the first of the HEAD racers to attack the Super G race and had in not been for a mistake off the steep near the bottom, Miller would have taken the lead. The American’s time was still competitive despite the mistakes that had drained his energy as he crossed the line. This was almost vintage Bode Miller. Didier Cuche was the best of the HEAD racers in taking fourth place. In the World Cup fourth place is a solid result yet in the World Championships this is a so nearly result. As ever Didier Cuche was as polite and philosophical as ever: “I have had fourth places before so it is not a disaster,” he explained.
Then the focus turned to the Downhill and the training runs: Could Vonn and Riesch recover their health in time for a classic World Championship duel? Would the bumps and light affect the racers? All these variables were due to come in to affect and then the weather started to play ball. While the bumps softened and the light stayed constant this all gave for more level conditions.
The training runs were just that. This was the chance for the racers to learn the line and get the feel of the slope. Come race day and it was full gas for the girls in the Super Combined first: This was the Lizz Goergl show in the downhill and then Anna Fenninger put all her focus into the slalom section to take a march on the rest down the Gudiberg Slalom hill. Her focus paid dividends as she grabbed the lead and then managed to hold on with Anja Paerson taking the bronze.

Saturday dawned with huge hopes for the HEAD racers: Cuche, Miller, Svindal, Heel and Olsson were all hoping to put down the run that would lift them to the medal positions. While the final training run had been cancelled due to the weather changing and making the snow grippier, the bumps were still expected to cause problems. Cuche, having won down the infamous Hahnenkamm, was expected to make this the crowing achievement of his career. In the end as he made his way down the Kandahar slope, he drifted in and out of the lead and then a slight error heading to the finish. By the line he was in second and silver. This was still a delight for the figurehead of the HEAD Speedoholics on the day. Miller and Svindal suffered due to the weather warming the slope up and slowing things down. But still this was another medal for the growing confidence in the HEAD camp.

When the women returned to the Kandahar on the Sunday, nobody could settle the discussion as to who would win the Women’s race. You had to go back to 2009 for the last time another brand had won the women’s Downhill. In that time it was 10 wins to Lindsey Vonn and 5 to Maria Riesch – the rest were fighting for the minor places. Yet no one had told Lizz Goergl that this was the script. Goergl had won the Downhill section of the Super Combined and already had the Super G safely tucked up in her room.

The racer is just one part of what brings success. Lizz Goergl had the full support of the HEAD Speedoholics service team. Goergl and her serviceman had fifteen pairs of skis ready for Goergl to race on. The service man of Hans Grugger had also worked long into the night to help make sure that the HEAD racers would have the best prepared skis on the hill. With 80 pairs of skis for all the HEAD women racers to choose from, this would be the best prepared group on the mountain.

Hard work pays off and it was not just a win for Lizz Goergl, but silver for Lindsey Vonn and bronze for Maria Riesch. This was a first for women’s World Championship downhill ski racing: All three podium winners were HEAD skiers! For Vonn this was her first medal of the Championships that had been blighted by her injury prior to arriving in Garmisch and for Maria Riesch this was a medal for her fans and the support she had been given while suffering from a fever since the start of the racing.

With the men’s Super Combined on the Monday, Aksel Lund Svindal showed the rest of the field what a supreme all round skier he is: Costly errors and bumpy courses had deprived him of adding to his collection of medals but then in the Downhill section it all came together for him. Having taken a podium in the Wengen Super Combined, Svindal also showed that he is no slouch on the slalom skis either. Svindal likes the slalom but due to the schedule he has little time to train it. Yet when the conditions get tough, the tough get going. Svindal skied with skill, intelligence and power to grab the Gold down the softening Gudiberg slope for the fourth Gold – and there would be more to come!

With three wins in the first three Giant Slalom races of the World Cup season, Ted Ligety was the outstanding talent leading into the technical events. Yet it was Aksel Lund Svindal who stole the show on the first run t grab the lead, Ligety was fourth and Cuche was fifth. Could the men provide another clean sweep?

Cuche was unable to replicate his first run and then Ligety came down and produced a devastating run to take the lead. Would it be enough or would those ahead of him be able to better his combined time? By the time Svindal left the start gate it was Ligety or him for the Gold. Sadly for Aksel his run took him into fourth to give HEAD three in the top five, Ligety was World Champion!

With ten individual events at the 2011 Garmisch Partenkirchen World Championships, HEAD have five GOLD medals, two silvers and three bronze medals. Ten medals and they also provided the skis for some of the French, Austrian and Swedish teams in the Team race!