Steamboat Springs As Steamboat Springs ski racer Caroline Lalive stepped into the starting gate at the World Cup downhill in Haus, Austria, she couldn't have imagined what kind of day it was going to be.
Lalive, like most of the American skiers, expected Jan. 13 to be a long, grueling day. But as the sun set on the Austrian hillside, Lalive was anything but haggard.
A full day of ski racing would begin with a downhill event that had been postponed from Friday, Jan. 12. That afternoon was set aside for a super-G race. The World Cup events would also include a slalom race that was scheduled just down the road in Flachau on Jan. 14.
Lalive, who was staring from the No. 41 start position in the downhill, said the first day of racing grew even longer as a series of crashes extended the event even more. The worst crash, in terms of the Americans, was Winter Park's Alison Powers, who was running No. 16 when she crashed in the final stretch of the race and slid across the finish line on her back. The fall fractured the skier's left patella, which will end her season.
"The course itself wasn't that difficult," Lalive said. "But mentally, it was pretty challenging. As a racer I had to overcome some anxiety and fear because there were so many crashes."
But by the time Lalive reached the bottom of the course, any fear and been replaced by happiness. She had moved into the No. 7 slot. It would be the first of four top-10 finishes on the weekend for the local alpine sensation.
"Just incredible. With the exception of her combined second last season (Santa Caterina, Italy), Caroline never had been top 10, and now she has four top 10s in two days," head coach Marjan Cernigoj said.
The race was won by Renate Goetschl of Austria with a time of 1 minute, 44 seconds. Italy's Isolde Kostner was second at 1:44.05 and Melanie Turgeon of Canada was third at 1:44.08.
Lalive was the top American in seventh and was followed by Megan Gerety in 10th at 1:45.41. Alison Powers was 16th (despite the crash) at 1:45.76 and Kirsten Clark was 25th at 1:46.28.
Lalive's run at good fortune would continue in the second race of the day on the super-G.
"It was basically the same race course as the downhill. We just started a little lower," Lalive said. "They (the course setters) couldn't be too crazy there just wasn't enough time between the races."
Regine Cavagnoud of France placed first in the super-G race, which was held Saturday afternoon, with a time of 1:28.48. Turgeon was second at 1:28.75 and Goetschl was third with a time of 1:29.07.
Once again, Lalive was the top American, this time taking seventh at 1:29.75.
"It was a good weekend," Lalive said. "I've been struggling the first part of the season and this was a nice change."
The young American skier's best finish came in the final race of the weekend, where she finished sixth in the slalom with a time of 1:38.36.
That race was won by Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who finished at 1:35.94. Karin Kellerer of Austria and Laura Pequegnot of France tied for second at 1:37.50.
The top showings landed Lalive on the podium with a second in the combined standings (the results from downhill and slalom are combined in this event). She was beat out by Kostelic, the winner of the slalom event, narrowly missing an opportunity to become the first American combined winner since Cindy Nelson did it in Switzerland in 1976.
Lalive said she has struggled the first part of this season but is hoping that some changes in the canting of her boots and the waxing of her skis will help her break through on the World Cup Tour.
"It was tough to watch her earlier this season because Caroline is such a talent, but now things seem to be more in place. What a weekend," Cernigoj said.
Lalive said despite the rainy, foggy weather that postponed the downhill, the weather was beautiful for both days of racing. She plans on taking a couple of days off before starting to prepare for the downhill, super-G and giant slalom races in Cortina, Italy, Jan. 19-21.
She is also looking forward to the World Championships Jan. 28 through Feb. 10 in St. Anton, Austria.