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  • Around Innsbruck 2012 - Vonn Visit; Snowboard Slopestyle; First Triple Gold Medalist


    Vonn Stops by Patscherkofel

    Reigning downhill Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn was a welcome guest at Thursday’s men’s giant slalom at Patscherkofel.
    Lindsey Vonn is a three-time Olympian and three-time overall World Cup champion. (ATR)

    Her visit to the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck comes just four days after she nabbed her 47th career World Cup victory on Sunday in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, one that moved her alone into third place on the all-time win list. 

    The popular three-time overall World Cup champion spoke about the significance of these inaugural Winter YOG as a vehicle to prepare yong athletes for traditional Olympics.

    “I think the more you race internationally and in big competitions like the Youth Olympic Games and world championships, it just gives you more experience and the more experience you have with a lot of pressure the better you are going to be, especially at a young age” said Vonn, who won her first Olympic gold at her third Winter Games.

    Vonn, 27, who has a commanding lead in the overall World Cup standings, is one of five Athlete Ambassadors for Innsbruck 2012. 

    While her time in the Tyrolean capital is short as she continues her season with races this weekend in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Vonn said it's important for her to give as much as possible to the teenage Olympians.
    Vonn mingles with Youth Olympians – and Yoggl. (ATR)

    “I don’t want to be an ambassador just to be an ambassador,” she said.

    “It’s a difficult time with it being in the middle of my season, but I know how important it is. I want to watch and interact with the athletes a little bit and try to have an impact. It's not as much time as I’d like to give, but I’m excited to be here.”

    Vonn made her way to the finish area in time to catch the first run of U.S. racer and fellow Colorado resident Alex Leever. 

    “I was kind of surprised to see her out here,” said Leever, 16, after his unexpected visit with Vonn. “I figured she would be training because she has World Cups going on now. It’s really cool that she could make her way out here for this.”

    Leever, 15th after his first run, received a quick bit of advice from the American ski racing icon.

    “She said it will give me a good start position for the second run and then I can kill it from there,” said Leever. “Anything can happen in the second run.”
    Vonn alongside fellow US ski racer and Colorado resident Alex Leever (left). (ATR)

    Perhaps Vonn’s comments helped, as Leever skied well in the afternoon run to move up and finish 11th.

    And what does the three-time Olympian see for the future of the YOG?

    "I think after more Games are held and the more it’s around, the more exciting it will be,” said Vonn.

    “I think it will really become a premier event. It already is, but there is a lot of room to grow. It’s an amazing event and a great opportunity for kids. It’s only going to keep expanding and getting bigger.”

    Rescheduled Snowboard Slopestyle

    Michael Ciccarelli celebrates snowboard slopestyle gold. (Getty Images)
    Due to bad weather forecasts, the International Skiing Federation and Innsbruck 2012 moved Friday’s scheduled snowboard slopestyle semifinals and finals up one day to Thursday afternoon at the scenic Kühtai venue.

    Canada went two-for-two as Michael Ciccarelli and Audrey McManiman both won gold in the highly entertaining new event, which involves riders descending and performing tricks on a specially created course including kickers, rails, hits and tabletops while being judged on technical difficulty of maneuvers, style and amplitude. 

    Ciccarelli comes from an avid hockey family that includes his father’s first cousin Dino, who spent 19 seasons in the NHL primarily with Minnesota before induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010. 

    Silver medals were won by Americans Ben Ferguson and Arielle Gold, each attaining their second medals of the Games.

    Austrian Media Coverage

    Florian Gosch, a two-time Olympian in beach volleyball for Austria, serves as the head of marketing for the Austrian Olympic Committee.

    Florian Gosch, AOC marketing head. (ATR)
    “I think our main goal was to make the public aware of youth sports,” Gosch tells Around the Rings about a home Winter YOG. “It was very hard at the beginning because a lot of people didn’t know about this, so to promote our Austrian Youth Olympic team we really tried to use different channels like Facebook, YouTube and our web page.”

    Austria’s contingent of 81 athletes – the largest at the Games – was supported and clothed by the AOC’s corporate partners, Schöffel and Erima.

    “For our partners, it was important to get as much media and the right value for them,” Gosch says. “Of course, it’s about the value of their logos, but it’s also a good chance for them to get connected to youth with the spirit of the Youth Olympic Games.”

    Gosch also touches upon national media coverage of the 11-day event and the battle for exposure with the famed Hahnenkamm ski races, underway this weekend in nearby Kitzbühel.

    “Our first impressions have been very positive – Austrian Broadcasting has been here and the newspapers are really involved,” he tells ATR. “Of course, we can get more exposure in primetime. It’s also the same time as the Hahnenkamm which is a fantastic event, but we are too and we want to keep showing the media and public everything that is happening here.”

    First Triple Gold Medalist 

    Marco Schwarz alongside fellow Austrian ski racer Stephan Eberharter, a four-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion. (ATR)
    Second after the first run of Thursday’s giant slalom, Austria’s Marco Schwarz made up the differential to win the race by 0.40 seconds. Having also grabbed top honors in Saturday's super-G and Tuesday’s team event, he became the first triple gold medalist of these Games.

    Considering the young racer’s success at the WYOG and 22-year-old Marcel Hirscher leading the FIS overall World Cup standings heading into important races in Kitzbühel this weekend, the future of Austrian ski racing once again looks promising.

    Russian Figure Skating Success

    Figure skating, which ended Wednesday evening at the Olympic Ice Stadium, was witnessed by 4,120 spectators over four nights of competition.
    Ice dancing champs Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov of Russia. (ATR)

    Russia displayed its strength in all four events on the youth level, dominating the WYOG medals tally with two gold medals and seven total.

    Elizabeth Tuktamisheva, 14, skated a brilliant program to easily win the ladies’ competition while the duo of Sergey Mozgov and Anna Yanovskaya took top honors in ice dancing earlier Wednesday.

    China also fared well, matching Russia in golds but tallying only three total. Han Yan won the mens’ competition while Jin Yang and Yu Xiaoyu were best among the pairs.

    Japan was the only other nation to earn a spot on the podium as Shoma Uno was a silver medalist in the men’s event.

    Hockey Skills Challenge Debuts

    Enjoying its Olympic debut Thursday evening is the Individual Ice Hockey Skills Challenge. 

    At the Tyrolean Ice Arena, 15 male and 15 female athletes from nations other than those competing in the main tournament will compete against one another in six different skills: fastest lap, shooting accuracy, skating agility, hardest shot, passing precision and puck control.

    The top qualifiers heading into Thursday’s final were Latvian Augusts Vasilonoks for the men and Julie Zwarthoed of the Netherlands for the ladies.

    Written and reported in Innsbruck by Brian Pinelli.

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