Marie-Michele Gagnon

Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon gets 1st World Cup victory in Altenmarkt super-combined

Leave a comment

Thought it was going to be another day of Austrian home cooking in Altenmarkt, eh?

Well, Canada had something to say about that.

Technical specialist Marie-Michele Gagnon kept herself within reasonable striking distance on the opening super-G leg and then rose to the occasion in slalom, watching with baited breath as many of her faster peers faltered, insuring her of her first career World Cup victory in Sunday’s super-combined, the one and only race before next month’s Sochi Olympics.

Since the inception of super-combined in 2005-06, no Canadian skier in either gender had made a podium in this discipline. Canada’s last World Cup podium in any combination race was Emily Broydon’s third place in the San Sicaro combined in February 2005, and its last victory was by Gerry Sorensenin in 1984.

“It’s really exciting, a magical moment,” Gagnon, who wasn’t even born when Sorensenin won, told AP. “All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I couldn’t be happier. “My teammate Erin Mielzynski won two years ago in Ofterschwang. She was the first Canadian woman to win in slalom in like 40 years. That was unbelievable and I didn’t expect our team to make history again.”

Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser finished second while Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch regained the World Cup overall standings lead with a third-place finish. Nicole Hosp of Austria, who led after the opening super-G run, wound up fourth, ahead of Sweden’s Sara Hector and reigning World Cup champion Tina Maze of Slovenia.

It was a rough day for the American women, who had four skiers not finish the race. Surprisingly, their difficulties occurred in the super-G, where speed specialists Stacey Cook and Leanne Smith made mistakes and missed gates, as did Vancouver Olympic silver medalist Julia Mancuso, who last won a super-combi in January 2007, and up-and-coming racer Julia Ford.

Most of the 19 starters who failed to finish the super-G went out at the Panorama, a sharp right turn about 40 seconds into the run. Going into the curve with too much speed made it difficult to make the next gate.

Laurenne Ross, the one American speed skier outside of Mancuso who is most comfortable on slalom skis, survived that turn to make it to the second run. She finished 20th.

Since December 2007, there have been 15 super-combined races contested on the World Cup circuit and only four skiers have teamed to win all those races. American Lindsey Vonn won five, Hoefl-Riesch won four, and Maze and Anja Paerson of Sweden each won three.

With Vonn not skiing as she prepares for a second surgery on her injured right knee and Paerson, the six time Olympic medalist, now retired, who would emerge to challenge Hoefl-Riesch and Maze for the top of the podium?

Gagnon might not have been anyone’s first choice.

Coming into this race, the 24 year old had attained just one podium finish in her career, a third-place effort in slalom in Are, Sweden in March of 2012, and her best result in a World Cup super-combined was last February’s fifth-place finish in Meribel, France.

But the opening run, which is usually a downhill, was contested as a super-G, which suits Gagnon’s strengths. This season, she has finished in the top 10 in two of the three super-G races. She gave herself a fighting chance by finishing 13th, 1.37 seconds behind Hosp, who won a World Cup combi in 2007, the last skier outside of the aforementioned four who have dominated the event recently to have done so.

While a gap of nearly a second and a half would be insurmountable in other disciplines, that is not the case in super-combined, where the speed racers often get off to a flying start but are humbled in the slalom. That proved to be the case once again in this instance, where Gagnon, who dates American speed racer Travis Ganong, built herself a .32 seconds advantage after her slalom run and watched as 12 other skiers failed to overtake her.

“It’s amazing. I was quite surprised,” Gagnon said. “I didn’t expect that after the first run. I knew I had to do a really good slalom run to be on the podium. I just tried to do my best and it looks like the pieces of the puzzle have come together.”

Altenmarkt Women’s Super-Combined

1. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 2:05.55

2. Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT) 2:05.87

3. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 2:05.94

4. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 2:06.06

5. Sara Hector (SWE) 2:06.42

6. Tina Maze (SLO) 2:06.68

7. Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) 2:06.72

8. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 2:06.73

9. Sarka Strachova (CZE) 2:06.82

10. Denise Feierabend (SUI) 2:06.86

20. Laurenne Ross (USA) 2:08.70

DNF. Julia Mancuso (USA)

DNF. Stacey Cook (USA)

DNF. Leanne Smith (USA)

DNF. Julia Ford (USA)

Picabo Street believes Lindsey Vonn will race for one more season

NBC to air ‘More Than Gold’ documentary on Jesse Owens on Sunday (trailer)

Leave a comment

“More Than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” a one-hour documentary on the track and field legend, will air on NBC on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Morgan Freeman narrates the film on Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Games in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Here’s a clip from the documentary.

“’More Than Gold’ will invite viewers inside the story of a pioneering athlete, who in the face of racial discrimination at home and the horrific theories and practices of Nazi Germany, performed at his best under immense pressure,” Mark Levy, Senior Vice President, Original Productions and Creative, NBC Sports Group, said in a press release. “Viewers will experience the Games through the compelling memories of Jesse’s surviving Olympic teammates, who were eye-witnesses to those events.”

“More Than Gold” includes interviews with Owens’ 1936 Olympic teammates swimmers Adolph Kiefer and Iris Cummings Critchell and canoeist John Lysak and Owens’ three daughters.

“Jesse Owens was the hero of every member of the 1936 Olympic team,” Kiefer said in a press release. “We all wanted him to win. We wanted him to win four medals. I’m just sorry it wasn’t five. He’s No. 1 and always will be.”

The film will also feature footage from the famous 1936 Olympic film “Olympia” from German director Leni Riefenstahl.

A feature-length film on Owens, “Race,” hits theaters on Feb. 19.

VIDEO: Three clips from ‘Race’ film about Jesse Owens

No consideration of postponing Olympics, IOC medical chief says

Rio Olympic Park
Rio 2016
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) — Seeking to calm fears over the Zika outbreak, the IOC medical director tells The Associated Press that “everything that can be done is being done” to combat the virus in Brazil and provide safe conditions for athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Dr. Richard Budgett says the International Olympic Committee is “absolutely not complacent” about the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects.

He says “our priority is to protect the health of the athletes, we do take it very seriously.”

Budgett says the outbreak should be kept “in perspective,” noting that world health authorities have not called for a restriction on travel to Brazil.

He says there has been no consideration of postponing or canceling the Olympics, which are scheduled from Aug. 5-21.

MORE: USOC to hire Zika specialists