Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing·Preview

5 international women skiers to watch at Lake Louise

With 18-time winner Lindsey Vonn not competing at this weekend's Lake Louise alpine ski event due to injury, the women's field is wide open, according to CBC Sports analyst Kerrin Lee-Gartner.

Lara Gut favoured to win in Vonn's absence, says analyst Kerrin Lee-Gartner

Clockwise from top left: Lara Gut, Cornelia Huetter, Viktoria Rebensburg, Mikaela Shiffrin and Tina Weirather will attempt to take the mantle from injured American star Lindsey Vonn, who has dominated the Lake Louise event for more than a decade. (Getty Images/CBC Sports)

Expect the unexpected.

Those are the words of three-time Canadian downhill champion-turned alpine skiing analyst Kerrin Lee-Gartner ahead of this weekend's FIS women's World Cup downhill and super-G events at Lake Louise, which continue Saturday (CBCSports.ca, 2:15 p.m. ET).

This year's event will have a different feel and winners in both the downhill and super-G competitions as American Lindsey Vonn, an 18-time winner at Lake Louise following last year's sweep, continues to recover from right arm surgery.

"She knows that mountain better than anyone else and is almost impossible to beat in Lake Louise," Lee-Gartner, who will be part of this weekend's broadcast on CBC, said earlier this week. "This really opens the door for the rest of the field."

Others will be noticeably absent, including Canadian downhill skier Larisa Yurkiw, who retired in May, fresh off the best season of her career. Two-time World Cup overall champion Anna Veith (formerly Fenninger) from Austria is recovering from a knee injury suffered last October while Slovenian ski star Tina Maze retired last October.

"We could see a total no-namer win that has never been top 10 in downhill," said Lee-Gartner, who won Canada's first-ever Olympic downhill gold in 1992 in Albertville, France. "It really is an opportunity for someone."

CBCSports.ca is live streaming Saturday's downhill race (2:15 p.m. ET), along with the super-G Sunday at 12:45 p.m. ET. CBC TV's Road to the Olympic Game show will feature downhill coverage Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, and the super-G Sunday at 4 p.m. local time.

Here are five international skiers to watch in Lake Louise:

Lara Gut

Last season, she became the first Swiss woman to win the overall title since Vreni Schneider in 1995. She picked up where she left off by dominating the season-opening giant slalom in late October in Austria. Gut won back-to-back super-G titles at Lake Louise in 2013 and 2014 but has struggled in the downhill because of the Swiss racer's size (five-foot-three, 128 pounds) and aggressive style has not been conducive to Lake Louise's moderate terrain.

"She is fast and the one to beat," said Lee-Gartner, adding the cancellation of last weekend's men's event at Lake Louise could make things more challenging for the 25-year-old Gut as the snow will be softer.


Cornelia Huetter

After earning six top-five results in the 2014-15 season, the Austrian speed skier broke through in 2015-16 and enters this season with nine World Cup podiums, including a third-place finish at Lake Louise a year ago.

The 24-year-old Huetter stepped up when Austrian team leader Anna Veith (formerly Fenninger) was lost to a serious knee injury last October.

"That was a major surprise for the Austrians," said Lee-Gartner, a member of the Canadian Olympic, Sports and Skiing Halls of Fame. "I think with the absence of Vonn and the question mark with [Gut's struggles in Lake Louise] I have to put Hüetter as almost the favourite for all three days to at least strike the podium."

Viktoria Rebensburg

Rebensburg's 2015-16 season ended in March after she injured her left knee in a crash during training in Germany. She returned at last weekend's World Cup in Killington, Vt., finishing 19th in the giant slalom. The 27-year-old also runs speed races and was 11th in the first Lake Louise downhill last year and eighth in the second, clocking the same time as Gut.

"She skied okay when she could see [in Killington] but in the fog you could tell she still has some issues on the front of the boot," Lee-Gartner said. "Being a giant slalom skier, she prefers the more technical downhill and super-G. Lake Louise, although it's one of the more difficult ones to win, is not one of the most demanding technically."

Mikaela Shiffrin

While she's the World Cup slalom champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the 2016-17 season is the first that Shiffrin is attempting to win the overall title and competing in speed races. Last weekend, the Olympic and world champion held on to a comfortable opening-run lead to win the World Cup slalom event in Killington, Vt. The 21-year-old native of Vail, Colo., made her speed debut at Lake Louise last year, placing a respectable 15th.


"She came on board fully as a slalom skier on the World Cup [circuit] and has won 20 races," said Lee-Gartner. "She's perfectly capable of becoming a great downhiller but she's not a natural speed racer.

"I've seen a lot of technical racers try to become downhillers and they get exhausted by mid-January with the extra mental load and they go back to slalom and giant slalom. I'm very curious how she's going to perform with speed [this weekend] but in super-G she can come top 10."

Tina Weirather

The 27-year-old from Liechtenstein has reached the podium twice in super-G at Lake Louise, finishing second in 2012 and third in 2014. Weirather defeated Vonn and Gut at a World Cup in Italy last February and went on to rank second in the overall super-G standings.

"She is a natural downhiller with a real touch on her skis," said Lee-Gartner of Weirather. "She will never sacrifice her speed for being on the right line in a turn, and that lends itself well to the [Lake Louise] course.

"Weirather hasn't looked like she's been skiing great in her GS [giant slalom] races thus far but I think she's going to feel very confident coming into town and we're going to see her warm up [for another strong season]."

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