Mammoth downhiller Stacey Cook broke onto the World Cup stage this past weekend, putting together back-to-back second-place finishes in the first podium finishes of her career.
Wearing a purple Mammoth knit hat, Cook mounted the podium twice behind winner Lindsey Vonn at Lake Louise, eight years after finishing fourth in that particular race.
Members of the Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard teams gathered in the ski area’s Slopeside Center to watch the races on television. They were joined by members of the U.S. Snowboard Team and the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, in Mammoth for training.
Despite coming off a 2011-12 season in which she finished 10th in the World Cup downhill standings, Cook had never had a podium finish her 10 years on the U.S. Alpine Ski team. Her fourth-place at Lake Louise in 2006 had been her previous best.
That ended Friday, when she found a break in the foggy weather and clattered her way to second place.
In Saturday’s race, Cook briefly held the lead, but a remarkable recovery by Vonn gave her the victory by .52 of a second. Vonn, who won her 54th and 55th Word Cup victories over the course of the weekend, overcame mistakes on both days to win.
It was a remarkable finish by both women; but for Cook, Friday’s race was arguably the most important.
"I hope this is the tip of the iceberg for me," said Cook. "There was a second there that I actually thought I might win this thing, but Lindsey is amazing.
“When she made that mistake my heart actually stopped for a second. She’s amazing, she’s the only athlete that could stop on course and then still win."
On Friday Cook was 1.73 seconds off Vonn's winning time of 1:52.61, in 1:54.34, while German Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather tied for third, just one-hundredth of a second behind Cook in the opening downhill of the season.
The race was put on hold several times by fog, but Cook found a window and took advantage of it.
The 1-2 finish by Vonn and Cook marked the first for the U.S. women since Vonn (then Kildow) and Mancuso swept the top two spots on Dec. 20, 2006, in Val d'Isere, France.
No one seemed more proud of Cook than Vonn herself.
“I'm so proud of Stacey,” she said in interview with SkiRacingMagazine.com. “She's had the ability to be a podium skier for so long. She really deserved to be there today.”
Cook said she appreciates her teammate's encouragement.
“It's really nice and awesome to have that support,” Cook said.
“We've been friends for so long. She's seen the battles that I've gone through and I've seen her battles. She's been so supportive of my journey, and it means a lot. And it's everyone on the team.
“I felt a lot of love from them today. It's what a team should be.”