The 2015-16 Alpine Skiing World Cup season has come to its end in terms of speed disciplines so now it’s time to review the athletes’ performances. Our series of season reviews starts with women’s speed disciplines.
Lindsey Vonn Again Dominant In Speed Disciplines
Once again Lindsey Vonn was the dominant speed skier on women’s side, despite a late-season knee injury that denied her the chance to win her sixth super-G World Cup title besides the downhill title she had already secured, as well as taking her out of the overall World Cup title race. Until the injury diagnosis put her out, she had won five of the eight downhill races and three of the six super-G races, still enough to finish third in the super-G World Cup.
The success that Vonn enjoyed this season saw her breaking two records of the great 1970s skier Annemarie Moser-Pröll; she broke Moser-Pröll’s record of 36 World Cup downhill wins sitting now at 38 wins, and won her eighth downhill World Cup title, one more than what Moser-Pröll achieved. The downhill title was also Vonn’s 20th World Cup title overall titles included, one more than what men's record holder Ingemark Stenmark achieved.
Lara Gut: The New Overall Champion
Lara Gut came into the season as one of the overall World Cup contenders; as a capable giant slalom skier she didn’t need to match the performances of Vonn in the speed disciplines. Indeed she couldn’t match Vonn’s consistently great performances in downhill; she won two downhill races and had one more podium finish but she also missed the top 10 in four of the nine downhills.
Super-G was once again Gut’s best discipline, achieving her second discipline World Cup title in it and finishing all but two of the eight races inside top five. In all fairness, she was trailing Vonn by 64 points when Vonn had to end her season, and Gut’s fifth and second places from the last two super-G races probably wouldn’t have been enough for the title, though her lead position in the overall World Cup may have made her racing more conservatively in the final races.
Thanks to her great giant slalom performance, Gut was having a tight overall title race with Vonn until Vonn’s injury made it a one-horse race for Gut to claim the title. It remains an unanswered question how Gut would’ve fared against Vonn in the overall title race had Vonn remained healthy. With average scores in the final races, Vonn would’ve finished the season at 1523 point whereas Gut sits now at 1462 with the giant slalom remaining for her to score points. Leading the title race may have given Gut a more conservative mindset in the final races, however Vonn could’ve taken points away from Gut in the final races. But that is pure speculation; injuries are a part—an unfortunate one—of ski racing.
Tina Weirather Improves By End Of Season
After great performances in the first giant slalom races of the season, Tina Weirather seemed like a contender for the overall title as she has usually been better in the speed disciplines. Yet she couldn’t live up to those expectations. Her form improved as the season progressed and she achieved two wins and one second place in the super-G races, finishing in second place of the standings, 45 points behind Gut.
In downhill Weirather was unable to break into the podium all season long, finishing fourth at best. She finished the season in the eighth place of the downhill World Cup, her worst since the 2011-12 season when she was the runner-up. She needs improve downhill for the next season; if she can make podiums and win races in downhill besides super-G and giant slalom, she can race for the overall World Cup title.
Fabienne Suter and Larisa Yurkiw On Downhill World Cup Podium
The experienced Swiss Fabienne Suter had her career-best season in downhill, finishing in second place of the World Cup standings despite missing one race due to a pulled hamstring. Despite not winning races, she achieved the downhill podium four times. By the end of the season, she also showed improving form in super-G, making the podium once.
Larisa Yurkiw, who competes outside Canada’s national team, finished in third place of the downhill World Cup with three podium finishes over the season. With the form she showed at best, she seems like too good of a skier to never have won a World Cup race. On the other hand, she is quite purely a downhill specialist; in the super-G World Cup she finished in 25th place, with the best race finish being a 12th place.
Cornelia Hütter Leads Austria’s Young Generation
Austria suffered a major setback when the defending overall World Cup champion Anna Fenninger suffered a knee injury just before the start of the season. Yet the younger generation of Austrians showed great performances during the season.
Cornelia Hütter was the best Austrian in speed disciplines this season. The 23-year-old Austrian achieved four podiums in both downhill and super-G, celebrating her first win in the super-G of Lenzerheide. In the super-G World Cup she was a title contender until the final race and finished in fourth place of the standings. Besides in downhill she ended the season in respectable fifth place of the standings.
The 24-year-old Tamara Tippler was another young Austrian with a good season. Her success came from super-G where she finished three times on the podium and was seventh in the final World Cup standings. The 23-year-old Mirjam Puchner also ended the season on a high note, achieving her first win, or podium altogether, in the downhill of the World Cup Finals.