Alpine ski racing: Stacey Cook earns first career podium – twice
Ryan Summerlin December 5, 2012
Safe to say, Stacey Cook was due.
Despite coming off a breakout 2011-12 season in which she finished 10th in the World Cup downhill standings, the Truckee native had never landed on the podium in her 10 years on the U.S. Alpine Ski team.
She put an end to that streak on Friday.
Cook scored her first career podium with a second-place finish to American teammate Lindsey Vonn in a foggy Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta.
And she didn’t stop there. The next day, Cook duplicated the performance with another runner-up downhill finish to Vonn, who swept all three races on the weekend.
“I was just really determined. I’ve been so close to the podium for so long. It’s been kind of a monkey on my back,” Cook said Friday night in a telephone interview from her hotel.
Cook’s previous best finish was fourth, in the 2006 Lake Louise downhill.
On Friday she was 1.73 seconds off Vonn’s winning time of 1:52.61, while German Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather tied for third just one-hundredth of a second behind Cook.
“I feel like a weight was lifted. That’s something I’ve been going for for a long really long time,” said Cook, who was born and raised in Truckee but now skis out of Mammoth. “I knew I could compete with those girls. I’m just going to try to keep things the same and stay very level-headed. That seems to work for me.”
Friday’s race was plagued by weather as fog drifted in and out, causing several holds. But Cook said she was fortunate to run during a window of decent weather.
“It was foggy for just about everyone, but some got it worse than others. The middle group definitely had a slower course,” she said.
Aside from Cook, fellow Tahoe product Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley finished eighth in 1:54.55 in what was a tightly packed top 10. Laurenne Ross was 11th, giving the Americans four skiers in the top 15.
The 1-2 finish by Vonn and Cook marked the first for the U.S. women since Vonn (then Kildow) and Mancuso swept the top two spots on Dec. 20, 2006, in Val d’Isere, France. The U.S. women finished 1-2 in all three races this past weekend, as Vonn and Mancuso were first and second in Sunday’s super G.
Vonn, who reached 83 mph on the men’s Olympic track, moved into second place on the all-time wins list with her 56th career victory Sunday. Yet she gave credit to her teammate after Friday’s downhill.
“I’m so proud of Stacey. She’s had the ability to be a podium skier for so long. She really deserved to be there today,” Vonn said.
Cook said she appreciates her teammate’s encouragement.
“It’s really nice and awesome to have that support,” she said. “We’ve been friends for so long. She’s seen the battles that I’ve gone through and I’ve seen her battles. She’s been so supportive of my journey, and it means a lot. And it’s everyone on the team. I felt a lot of love from them today. It’s what a team should be.”
Cook, who posted a time of 1:53.42 to Vonn’s 1:52.90 in Saturday’s downhill, thought for a moment that she might have a chance to earn the victory after watching Vonn nearly crash. But Vonn made a spectacular recovery to stay on her feet, then nailed the bottom of the run for the win.
“There was a second there that I actually thought I might win this thing, but Lindsey is amazing,” Cook said of her teammate, who became the fourth woman in history to earn 100 podiums. “When she made that mistake my heart actually stopped for a second. She’s amazing. She’s the only athlete that could stop on course and then still win.”
Cook said her back-to-back podium finishes were even sweeter in the company of her parents, who made a rare trip from the Sierra Valley near Loyalton to watch her perform. Cook said they only attend one race every two or three years.
“So they picked a good one,” she said.
The U.S. women placed six athletes in the top 20 on Saturday. Mancuso finished ninth, Alice McKennis was 11th, Ross 18th and Leanne Smith 20th. Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland rounded out the podium in third.
Vonn and Cook are one-two in the downhill standings after the first two events.
– The U.S. Ski Team contributed to this report.