Lindsey Vonn’s start to the alpine skiing season proved an anti-climax when the American was forced out of the opening giant slalom in Soelden won by world champion Tina Maze.
Winner on the Austrian glacier a year ago on her way to her fourth overall World Cup title, Vonn struck a pole halfway down the second leg held in foggy conditions and abruptly stopped.
The American, who had stolen the headlines in the pre-season by announcing her desire to enter a men’s race, remained on the side of the piste for a while holding her left hand, leaving Maze to take the day’s laurels.
“She hooked her left arm. It’s sore but she will be fine,” said U.S. team spokesman Doug Haney.
While Vonn made it her goal this season to compete with the men, Slovenian Maze’s own ambition is simpler - beat Vonn and take the title at the end of the season after finishing second last winter.
“I set myself high goals this winter and aim to fight for the overall title,” Maze, who won in a combined time of two minutes 31.41 seconds to become the first woman skier to achieve three wins on the Soelden glacier after victories there in Soelden in 2002 and 2005, said.
It was a relief for the 29-year-old Slovenian, who did not win a race last season despite several podium placings.
“This is a super day and a super win for me. It’s exciting to start the season with that great win as I trained very hard in the summer with my group,” she said.
“This takes much weight away from my shoulders,” she added.
Maze, who progressed steadily in the overall World Cup standings from fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and runner-up last year, last won a race in Lenzerheide in March 2011.
Kathrin Zettel and Stefanie Koehle, both sporting black armbands to mourn the loss of young Austrian team mate Bjorn Sieber in a car crash earlier this week, pleased the home fans by taking the other podium places.
The experienced Zettel was second, 0.42 adrift for her first top three placing since the 2010-2011 season.
Koehle finished a huge 1.71 seconds behind Maze but it was fast enough to snatch the first top-three of her career.
Fog delayed the second leg by an hour and caused several favourites to crash.
Apart from Vonn, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, the giant slalom Olympic and World Cup champion, was forced out while France’s Tessa Worley straddled a gate.
Vonn was mortified by her crash but said her bid to compete in a men’s downhill in Lake Louise either this season or more probably next, was making progress.
“It was definitely not in the game plan what happened today,” the American said. “I was trying hard but my arm got caught in the gate and the visibility was very bad.”