Skip to content

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

Jan 12, 2014, 8:02 AM EDT

Marie-Michele Gagnon AP

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

Latest Posts
  1. Debbie Phelps texted Michael Phelps about Rio 2016 years ago (video)

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Debbie Phelps Getty Images

    “I’m like, Michael, 2016, Rio, 50 free, 100 free, just a relay.”

  2. Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky tie in 400m freestyle

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    The finals are at 9 p.m. ET on Universal Sports.

  3. Yevgeny Plushenko to return to figure skating competition

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

    Evgeni Plushenko AP

    Plushenko wants to compete in a fifth Olympics in 2018.

  4. St. Louis Marathon disqualifies woman who crossed finish line first

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:29 AM EDT

    St. Louis Marathon

    It took organizers about 20 minutes to figure out what happened Sunday.

  5. Michael Phelps back with ‘OK’ victory in Mesa

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps outdueled Ryan Lochte, but he was slower than last year.

  6. Michael Phelps could be offered World Championships spot by FINA

    Apr 16, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT

    AP AP

    If Phelps is added by FINA, the U.S. might be able to try for podium sweeps at the World Championships.

  7. Michael Phelps fastest in first race since August

    Apr 16, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Phelps and Ryan Lochte appear headed for a showdown Thursday night.

  8. Andrew Wiggins to play for Canada in Olympic qualifying

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Andrew Wiggins Getty Images

    Canada has a shot to qualify for its first Olympics since 2000.

  9. Aaron Cook, top-ranked taekwondo fighter, switches from Great Britain to Moldova

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “There is no legitimate case for nationality change,” a British official said.

  10. Eugene gets 2021 World Track and Field Championships

    Apr 16, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT

    Prefontaine Classic Getty Images

    See Eugene’s bid video for 2019 that failed to get a taste of what Worlds will be like in the U.S.

  11. Michael Phelps accepts missing World Championships, eyes Rio Olympics

    Apr 15, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps discussed his time away from swimming during his suspension.

  12. Watch Rio Olympic park construction progress video

    Apr 15, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic Park

    The video states that the swimming stadium is 58 percent complete.

  13. Kristin Armstrong ends cycling retirement

    Apr 14, 2015, 4:57 PM EDT

    Kristin Armstrong Getty Images

    Armstrong explained her comeback on social media.

  14. Four storylines to watch at Pro Swim Series at Mesa

    Apr 14, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte Getty Images

    There’s Michael Phelps, but also much more.

  15. Tokyo airport terminal designed like running track

    Apr 14, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    Narita Airport track Getty Images

    The blue track is for departures, and the red for arrivals.

  16. Who is the most dominant U.S. woman on road to Rio Olympics?

    Apr 13, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT

    Katie Ledecky, Claressa Shields, Gwen Jorgensen, Simone Biles Getty Images

    A swimmer, a boxer, a triathlete and a gymnast all look unbeatable.

  17. Gracie Gold to start work on triple Axel, quad Salchow

    Apr 13, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    Gracie Gold Getty Images

    Only one woman is currently doing a triple Axel, and none are doing quads.