GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — American Laurenne Ross, a 24-year-old from Bend, posted the first podium finish of her career with a surprising second-place performance in a World Cup downhill race Saturday.
Ross became the sixth U.S. Ski Team women’s speed athlete this season to finish in the FIS Alpine World Cup top three. She also became the first U.S. woman to land her first World Cup podium this season, joining teammates Stacey Cook, Leanne Smith and Alice McKennis.
Tina Maze of Slovenia broke the record for points in a World Cup season by winning Saturday’s downhill and became only the third woman to win a race in all five disciplines in a single campaign.
Maze secured the overall World Cup title one week ago, and her ninth win of the season took her to 2,024 points in the overall standings. Austrian great Hermann Maier held the previous record of 2,000 points on the men’s side.
Maze covered the 1.81-mile Kandahar course in 1 minute, 40.46 seconds. Ross was 0.39 seconds behind for her career-best result, and Maria-Hoefl Riesch of Germany took third in her hometown race.
“It was my turn," Ross said. “It’s such a cool vibe to have everyone so fast."
She said she took a more aggressive approach to Saturday’s race.
“I haven’t had the best downhill results over the last couple weeks, so I’ve been a little bit tentative with my skiing," Ross said. “So today I knew I had to send it. I knew that if I didn’t give it everything I had I would regret it in the finish. So I just put it all on the line and skied it as fast as I could. It wasn’t perfect, but I was just trying to tuck everywhere I could and find every bit of speed."
The race was interrupted for more than 20 minutes after McKennis crashed. She was evacuated by helicopter to a hospital and diagnosed with a broken shinbone.
“Yea, that’s so tough," said Ross, “especially when it’s your own teammate that crashes and you’re standing in the start waiting to go. But that’s something that happens all the time for us and it’s just something that you have to block out of your head. You can’t let it get to you up there or you’re not going to have a good run, you’re not going to put it all out there.
“I was a little sad at first," she added. “I kind of let it get to me a little bit, and I was like, ‘No, I need to snap out of it. I need to get in my zone. This is my run.’ I just had to focus. I think that’s really important when something like that happens."
With 20 podium finishes this season, Maze is second on the all-time list with Phil Mahre of the United States, who did it in 1981-82. Maier holds the record with 22 podium finishes in the 1999-2000 season, when he finished with 2,000 points.
“It’s been an incredible season," Maze said. “It was not my goal at the start of the season to break the mark. My aim was to win the overall title."
Maze also matched Austria’s Petra Kronberger (1990-91) and Croatia’s Janica Kostelic (2005-06) in clinching a single-season sweep of victories in slalom, giant slalom, downhill, super-combined and super-G.
She is aiming for the downhill and super-G titles as well. She is one point behind Lindsey Vonn of the United States in the downhill standings. Vonn is out for the season after injuring a knee at the world championships last month.
Maze also has a 65-point lead over American Julia Mancuso going into today’s race on the same Kandahar course. Maze and Mancuso shared second place in Friday’s super-G. A win is worth 100 points.
Ross was impressed with Maze’s season.
“It was a special day for me, but it’s really incredible for Maze, really admirable," Ross said. “I am really impressed that she’s had the strength to pull it off. It’s been a really good year for her and it’s been fun to watch. She is in her own league."