Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lindsey Vonn clinches World Cup downhill title

First American woman to win since Picabo in 1996

Express Staff Writer

Top: Lindsey Vonn charges to the World Cup downhill title on the Olympic run at Whistler, B.C., Canada Friday. Photo by Getty Images Bottom: Lindsey and 2002 U.S. Olympic skier Thomas Vonn celebrate after Lindsey won the World Cup downhill title Friday at Whistler, B.C., Canada. The couple married Sept. 29, 2007 at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah?and Lindsey has been on a roll ever since. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Not too shabby for a kid born in the flats of St. Paul, Minn. to grow up and be the world's downhill skiing queen.

That's what happened to 23-year-old Lindsey Kildow Vonn Friday on the 2010 Winter Olympic course at Whistler Mountain north of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. There she clinched the 2007-08 Audi FIS World Cup downhill title

She became only the second American woman to do so.

Ignoring flat light, hard-charging 5-10 Vonn sailed down the 2.9-kilometer Franz's downhill course and finished in second, only .01 seconds behind Friday's downhill winner Nadia Styger of Switzerland.

After eight DHs Vonn built an insurmountable 655-368 lead over defending DH queen Renate Goetschl of Austria. Last year Vonn was third in the ranks, 315 points behind Goetschl. This year Vonn won four DHs and was second twice.

The last U.S. skier to win a World Cup DH crown was Sun Valley's Picabo Street in 1996. Vonn's best-ever World Cup downhill finish prior to this winter was second place to 2006 Olympic DH queen Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria in 2005-06. Dorfmeister had 498 to Vonn's 410.

Vonn, the oldest of five children who has nine World Cup career victories, was delighted to win the downhill title and also to reclaim the World Cup overall points lead.

Said the girl who grew up skiing at Buck Hill in suburban Minneapolis, "It's amazing I won the trophy. It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid. And it's been a long time coming. The last two years I was really close—injuries last year and mistakes the year before, so I'm really happy with the way it's finally done."

Head coach Patrick Rimi said, "What can you say about Lindsey? She's such a gamer, so tough on race day. She does such a good job keeping her focus and not getting distracted by other things."

Two-time Olympian Vonn came off her title-clinching run Friday and immediately faced another challenge—keeping her lead in the overall standings. And she did well in Sunday's super giant slalom/slalom super combined, finishing sixth.

Vonn kept her World Cup overall lead with 1103 points, 54 ahead of reigning World Cup overall queen Nicole Hosp of Austria (1049).

Commenting on the prospect of adding the overall globe to her DH prize, Vonn said, "It's gonna be a challenge, for sure. If I keep skiing hard, it's possible. Historically it always comes down to the last couple of weeks (for the overall). I have to be really on my game in the speed events because she (Hosp) is going to be in the top three in tech events."

But two-time World Championship silver medalist Vonn was pleased with her super combined points, which included a near-perfect fourth-fastest slalom run.

Vonn said after Sunday's super combined, "The goal today was to fight hard and not lose ground on Nicole, and I think I did that pretty well. It wasn't a win, but it was a solid performance and I'm looking forward to the next three weeks."

Only three American skiers have won the World Cup overall title over the circuit's 41 years—Phil Mahre three times from 1981-83, Tamara McKinney 1983 and Bode Miller 2005.

Overlooked at Whistler was Julia Mancuso, who podiumed with a third place in Friday's downhill and followed up with seventh in super combined Sunday. Mancuso sits in sixth place in the overall ranks with 846 points and is third in combined and fourth in giant slalom for the season.

2006 Olympic GS gold medalist Mancuso, 23, from Olympic Valley, Ca., liked the Whistler Olympic DH run and showed it with her podium.

She said, "It's an awesome run, a good hill for a technical skier. There are no long, gliding sections where I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. It's technical and has some straight sections but lots of turns. It's got everything, a lot of rolls although it's never really steep."

Meanwhile, World Cup men also raced at Whistler last weekend where overall leader Bode Miller, 30, of New Hampshire maintained his World Cup overall lead after 32 races with 1103 points, 45 ahead of last year's overall runner-up and 2006 World Cup overall king Benjamin Raich of Austria (1058).

Showing a season-best second place in super giant slalom Dec. 14 in Italy but no other top-10 SG placings, Miller didn't help his cause by DNFing Thursday's SG won by Christoph Gruber of Austria. But Bode bounced back Saturday with a seventh place in giant slalom.

The big news for the Americans was the giant slalom chase of 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety, 23, of Park City, Utah. Ligety moved into second place in the World Cup GS standings Saturday with a fourth place on the 2010 Olympic track at Whistler.

With 285 points and only two GS races left in the 2007-08 season, Ligety is now just 23 points behind 2006 Olympic GS gold medalist Raich, who was third Saturday. Ligety said, "It's going to be a tight race for sure, we'll see how it goes."

Still to come: Men's DH/DH/SG March 1-3 at Kvitfjell, Norway and women's GS/SL March 1-3 at Arber, Germ.; men's GS/SL March 8-9 at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and women's DH/combined March 8-9 at Crans Montana, Switz.; and the World Cup Big Finals (all disciplines) March 12-16 at Bormio, Italy.

In other news: Wood River Valley native Hailey Duke of Boise, who won back-to-back slaloms earlier this season, snagged her fourth podium last Tuesday with two solid runs which put her in third place in another Europa Cup slalom.

Duke, 22 and in her first year on the U.S. Ski Team, came through Idaho's McCall Ski Team and Utah's Park City Ski Education Foundation programs. She stands fourth in the Europa Cup slalom standings.

Current men's and women's World Cup leaders and top Americans are listed:

Men's overall: 1—Bode Miller (Team America) 1103. 2—Benjamin Raich (Aust.) 1058 points. 3—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 998. 7—Ted Ligety (U.S.) 662.

Men's downhill: 1—Didier Cuche 464. 2—Bode Miller 399. 3—Michael Walchhofer (Aust.) 343. 4—Marco Sullivan (U.S.) 278.

Men's slalom: 1—Jean-Baptiste Grange (Fra.) 462. 2—Mario Matt (Aust.) 405. 3—Manfred Moelgg (Italy) 391. 10—Ted Ligety 238.

Men's giant slalom: 1—Benjamin Raich 308. 2—Ted Ligety 285.

Men's super giant slalom: 1—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 280. 2—Christoph Gruber (Aust.) and Hannes Reichelt (Aust.) 225. 4—Benjamin Raich 221. 12—Bode Miller 109.

Men's combined: 1—Bode Miller 410. 2—Ivica Kostelic (Cro.) 256. 7—Ted Ligety 131.

Women's overall: 1—Lindsey Vonn (U.S.) 1103. 2—Nicole Hosp (Aust.) 1049 points. 3—Maria Riesch (Germ.) 981. 6—Julia Mancuso 846.

Women's downhill: 1—Lindsey Vonn 655. 2—Renate Goetschl (Aust.) 368. 3—Britt Janyk (Can.) 350. 7—Julia Mancuso 232.

Women's slalom: 1—Marlies Schild (Aust.) 540. 2—Nicole Hosp 465. 14—Resi Stiegler (U.S.) 111.

Women's giant slalom: 1—Denise Karbon (Italy) 560. 4—Julia Mancuso 253. 15—Lindsey Vonn 104.

Women's super giant slalom: 1—Maria Riesch (Germ.) 334. 2—Elisabeth Goergl (Aust.) 281. 7—Julia Mancuso 202. 11—Lindsey Vonn 182.

Women's combined: 1—Maria Riesch 180. 2—Lindsey Vonn 140. 3—Julia Mancuso 96.

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