In Schladiming, Austria, the World Ski Championships are underway, with the Super Giant Slalom event running today, despite several hours’ delay due to fog. But once underway, the event proved controversial, when several top women’s skiers in a row all failed to note one of the slalom gates, and were disqualified. The placement of the slalom gate will come under question, masked as it was by the crest of the hill before it. The biggest story of the day will surely be the nasty fall suffered by co-favorite Lindsay Vonn, long the world’s best female skier, until this year, when Slovenian phenom Tina Maze has led the entire season by a huge margin, winning almost every event. Tina Maze took first place in today’s Giant Slalom, and retained her pole position. But immediately following her first-place run, Vonn fell halfway down the slope, in a nasty crash that looked, from replays, as though it might cost Vonn the season.
Vonn was running just in line with Maze, when she jumped off a hill a good deal higher than seemed intended. She came down on a mogul, and it looked as though her right knee collapsed inward. She skidded dozens of yards down the slope and remained motionless for a long time. The fall drew gasps from the crowd and competitors, and Vonn was slowly helicoptered off to the hospital. The question remains as to whether this will end Vonn’s season.
Vonn was the favorite at the season’s start, but had trouble early on. Aside from her domination of sprint competitions, she did not perform well in slalom and giant slalom, while the Slovenian Maze, always a solid competitor, managed to come in the top three in every event. Maze blazed ahead from the start of the season and has never looked back. Maze currently leads by more than double the points of the second-place competitor. Maze holds 1694 points, while Maria Hoefl-Riesch in a distant second (806 points) and Vonn in 3rd with 740 points. Experts point to Maze to break the 2000 point barrier, quite possibly becoming the highest-scoring competitor in skiing history, regardless of gender.
About one-third into the season, Vonn decided to take a break from the competitive circuit and regroup. She took several weeks off, a dangerous tactic because she received no points from those missed matches. The season was quite clearly Mazes already, by that point, and Vonn’s tactic seemed to pay off. She came back strong and even defeated Maze in a recent competition in Slovenia, shocking the crowd. But today, their friendly competition comes to an end that no one would wish, with Vonn likely sidelined for weeks, depending on the extent of the injury.
Maze won the giant slalom, and is the strong favorite in every category at this week’s World Ski Championships. For more, you can follow the action at the official website. Fingers crossed that Vonn’s injury is not season-ending, and hats-off to Tina Maze, who is in the midst of a truly legendary season and is a joy to watch in action.