Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lindsey Vonn sets new U.S. downhill record

Vonn, Bode in Bormio with overall leads

Ted Ligety of the United States after his 7th place finish at the Alpine FIS Ski World Cup in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Photo Zoom/Getty Images

The remarkable thing is two-time Olympian Lindsey Vonn is only 23 years old with presumably the best part of her international ski racing career ahead. But the native of St. Paul, Minn. has accomplished much.

Vonn became the all-time American record holder for downhill victories on the World Cup circuit Saturday by winning the women's downhill at Crans Montana, Switz. by a huge .61 margin over Austrian veteran downhiller Renate Goetschl.

It was Vonn's 10th career downhill victory, five in the current 2007-08 Audi FIS World Cup season. She became the most successful U.S. speed racer ever breaking the previous records of nine DH wins set in 1996 by Sun Valley's Picabo Street and in 2006 by Daron Rahlves.

Vonn said, "To have broken the record is incredible. It's a dream come true and I couldn't have asked for more. I'm extremely honored."

The 5-10 racer from Vail, Colo. has 13 World Cup wins and can look forward to joining some of the top women who have raced on the World Cup since it started in 1967. She has 29 top-three finishes in her career.

All-time queen is Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria who won 62 times from 1969-80 (36 DH, 16 GS, 3 SL, 7 combined). Switzerland's Vreni Schneider won 55 races from 1984-95 (20 GS, 34 SL, 1 combined).

Ranked 3-4 and still active are Goetschl with 46 wins starting in 1993 (24 DH, 17 SG, 1 SL, 4 combined) and Sweden's Anja Paerson with 38 wins starting in 1998 (4 DH, 4 SG, 11 GS, 18 SL, 1 combined).

Those records seem far away for Vonn, however. She has her sights on a closer goal, which is winning the overall World Cup women's crystal globe when the finals are held at Bormio, Italy March 12-16.

With last weekend's DH victory and her third place in super combined at Crans Montana, current overall leader Vonn (1263 points) is 157 points ahead of Germany's Maria Riesch and 178 better than reigning overall queen Nicole Hosp of Austria.

There are 400 points at stake over four races at Bormio and Vonn has a very good chance of becoming only the second U.S. woman to win the overall title. Tamara McKinney is the only other American woman to prevail in the overall, in 1983.

Vonn said after Sunday's super combined podium finish at Crans Montana, "It was a really good weekend and now I'm looking forward to racing in Bormio."

Her confidence level is high.

Foggy conditions made Saturday's downhill a little problematic but Vonn was still dominant on a course that officials shortened to get the competition underway.

Winning the three intermediate times, Vonn said, "It was a pretty tough day because the light was flat on the top section. I was pretty nervous from the top, but I think I had a solid run from top to bottom."

Head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, "Lindsey is really confident right now so she was dominating the downhill again. Even on the shorter downhill she schooled everyone. It was an excellent performance."

Ligety wins GS, Bode still has lead

Vonn and 31-time World Cup race winner Bode Miller, 30, of New Hampshire are positioned to become the first American pair to sweep the World Cup overall titles since McKinney and Phil Mahre in 1983.

The 6-2, 210-pound Miller has amassed points in every discipline this season and will carry a 169-point lead over Switzerland's Didier Cuche into the Bormio World Cup finals.

Miller has 1387 points and last year's third-place Cuche has 1218 on his ledger. Miller's total is 264 ahead of last year's overall runner-up and 2006 World Cup king Benjamin Raich of Austria (1123).

Ted Ligety, 23, of Park City, Utah had an impressive giant slalom triumph Saturday at Kransjka Gora, Slovenia to grab the giant slalom lead by 27 points over Raich. Going into the Bormio finals Ligety, seeking his first crystal globe, has 385 points and Raich 358.

Ligety crushed the bottom of the Podkoren 3 course Saturday in Slovenia to earn the victory, a win that came one hour after Vonn dominated the downhill at Crans Montana. It was Ligety's first GS win in two years, since March 5, 2006 in Korea.

Saturday's win plus Ligety's seventh place in Sunday's Kransjka Gora slalom elevated the 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist into fifth place in the overall standings with 798 points, just 57 behind Italy's Manfred Moelgg for fourth place.

U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt said, "The athletes are positioned really well as we head into the homestretch of the season. We've had good U.S. success in the past at Bormio and the team is prepared to wrap up the season strong."

Meanwhile, today's Audi FIS World Cup Finals men's downhill has been cancelled, handing the title to Swiss Didier Cuche by a five-point margin over Miller with Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley fourth.

Cuche had 584 points. Miller, of Bretton Woods, N.H. and Carrabassett Valley Academy, finished five points behind with 579. Sullivan, who won the famed Kandahar in Chamonix, France in January, finished fourth, his best season ever.

Warm temperatures and soft snow forced organizers to cancel both the men's and women's downhill training runs scheduled for Tuesday. FIS rules mandate at least one downhill training run prior to a race, therefore the men's downhill was scrubbed.

The women had a successful training run Monday and their downhill race today will proceed as scheduled.

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

Men's overall: 1—Bode Miller (Team America) 1387. 2—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 1218. 3—Benjamin Raich (Aust.) 1123 points. 5—Ted Ligety (U.S.) 798.

Men's downhill (final): 1—Didier Cuche 584. 2—Bode Miller 579. 3—Michael Walchhofer (Aust.) 407. 4—Marco Sullivan (U.S.) 278.

Men's slalom: 1—Jean-Baptiste Grange (Fra.) 512. 2—Manfred Moelgg (Italy) 491. 9—Ted Ligety 274.

Men's giant slalom: 1—Ted Ligety 385. 2—Benjamin Raich 358. 11—Bode Miller 141.

Men's super giant slalom: 1—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 340. 2—Christoph Gruber (Aust.) 251. 8—Bode Miller 189.

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

Women's overall: 1—Lindsey Vonn (U.S.) 1263. 2—Maria Riesch (Germ.) 1106. 3—Nicole Hosp (Aust.) 1085 points. 7—Julia Mancuso 902.

Women's downhill: 1—Lindsey Vonn 755. 2—Renate Goetschl (Aust.) 448. 3—Britt Janyk (Can.) 390. 7—Julia Mancuso 282.

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 260. 2—Lindsey Vonn 200. 6—Julia Mancuso102.

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