Anna Fenninger, the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion, is out for the season after suffering major knee injuries in a training crash Wednesday, according to Austria’s ski federation.
Fenninger, 26, suffered a tear of the collateral and the anterior cruciate ligament of her right knee and a tear of the patellar tendon and required surgery, according to the International Ski Federation.
Fenninger is the Olympic super-G champion and the World champion in the super-G and giant slalom.
She had aimed this year to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women since 1992 to win three straight World Cup overall titles.
The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup season will start without Fenninger on Saturday with a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.
Fenninger and Mikaela Shiffrin tied for the victory in Soelden last year, marking Shiffrin’s first World Cup giant slalom win.
The biggest prize in Alpine skiing this season is the World Cup overall title, given there are no World Championships or Olympics.
Now, the women who finished first and second in the World Cup standings the last three seasons are all not competing this season — Fenninger, Tina Maze (on a break this year) and Maria Hoefl-Riesch (retired).
Vonn (1,087 points) and Shiffrin (1,036) are the only returning skiers who tallied more than 1,000 World Cup points last season, accumulating results across all disciplines on the October-to-March tour.
The next-best returning skier is Swedish slalom specialist Frida Hansdotter, who had 679 points.
If one extracts the finishes of Fenninger, Maze and the retired Nicole Hosp and Kathrin Zettel from last season’s World Cup races, Vonn would finish with 1,170 points and Shiffrin would finish with 1,149 points.
Vonn, who turned 31 on Sunday, has said her goal this season is to earn a fifth World Cup overall title. She hasn’t taken the crown since 2012, one year before the first of her two major knee surgeries that kept her from defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.
Vonn reportedly said Monday that she is “more likely than not” to skip Soelden, after fracturing an ankle in an August training crash.
Vonn can become the oldest women’s World Cup overall champion ever this season. She can also move within one overall title of the record six held by retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll.
To compete with Fenninger, Vonn likely needed to become more proficient in giant slalom races this season (all of her eight wins last year came in downhill or super-G), but perhaps now she can contend for the overall even if she is not particularly strong in a third discipline.
The same goes for Shiffrin, who has won every slalom title the last three seasons and is improving in giant slalom but has never raced a World Cup downhill, super-G or combined.
Shiffrin, for the second straight year, hopes to make her World Cup super-G debut. Last season’s plan was scrapped after a slow start to her season in slalom.
Shiffrin, while famous for saying after becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018, has more realistically said she doesn’t want to contest the speed events of super-G and, later, downhill if the additions could jeopardize her prowess in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom.
If Shiffrin wins the World Cup overall title, she would be the youngest to do so since Janica Kostelic in 2001.
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