Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vonn keeps Lake Louise winning streak alive

Wins season-opening downhills in Canada

Photo by AFP-Don Emmert/Getty Images Lindsey Vonn, in her new Spyder suit, crosses the line with a bloody tongue. She won Friday’s season-opening women’s downhill at Lake Louise.

From the U.S. Ski Team

It was a great weekend for 25-year-old Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., the 5-10, 160-pound U.S. ski ace won two World Cup downhill races at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

Vonn won two of the three speed races and vaulted into the early-season World Cup overall lead with 389 points, 28 more than Maria Riesch of Germany.

Here's a report from Lake Louise and also from Beaver Creek, Colo., where the World Cup men raced:

Vonn grabs early DH lead

American great Lindsey Vonn earned her 13th downhill title and 23rd overall World Cup victory on Friday in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. She glided through the course in snowy, windy conditions that led to slow times for many other skiers.

Friday's victory marked six wins at Lake Louise in the last five years for the two time defending World Cup overall champion.

"It was pretty smooth—I kind of tucked the whole way down and it was exciting," Vonn said. "I skied pretty well today and I'm really happy with the result today."

Vonn was undeterred at her home-away-from-home in her custom-designed Spyder suit. Skiing in frigid weather, Vonn took a knee to the chin halfway through her run -- where she reached speeds of 126.8 km/hour -- and crossed the finish line with blood on her face.

"At the top I caught an edge and actually my knee hit my chin and that cut my tongue. I was spitting up blood, it was so nasty," Vonn said.

"It just about knocked her out, apparently, but she held on and did a great job," Women's Alpine Head Coach Jim Tracy said.

Vonn's winning time was 1:26.13, more than a half second ahead of second-place Canadian Emily Brydon in 1:26.65.

"The weather was so bad today, and we had to move the start down," Tracy said. "We knew we had to keep everybody focused and in their game plans. Lindsey did a great job seeing the course."

Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) finished 10th for the U.S., .65 seconds off Vonn's blistering pace, while 21-year-old Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO) tucked home an 18th-place result in just her second career World Cup downhill race.

According to Tracy, Mancuso's hard skiing was exactly what she needed to place well on Friday.

"That's a huge deal. From where she started, we thought she had no chance, because it had started snowing again," Tracy said. "She made a couple little mistakes up at the top, but she got it back together, and she was flying at the bottom."

Canada's Britt Janyk was the early leader with a 1:27.22 as an overnight storm put its finishing touches on the course.

"All the girls did a very good job today, and we're very proud of them," Tracy said.

"I feel really good and I'm skiing with a lot confidence," Vonn said.

More success on Saturday

Talk about a comfort zone.

Free of Friday's flurries, the field still was no match for Lindsey Vonn on Saturday, when the American great coolly captured her fifth consecutive World Cup downhill victory—and second in two days—at Lake Louise.

"It's quite exciting for me. I did win two events in a row a few years ago at St. Anton where I won the downhill first and then the super-combined, but this is my first double-downhill victory here," Vonn said.

Vonn bolstered her bid for a third straight downhill crystal globe, tucking hard early from a higher start gate only to fall behind the split of then-leader Maria Riesch at the midway point.

"The conditions were great as the course was well groomed yesterday after the race, so it was very smooth. I knew I had to give what I had in me to win again. It was not easy at all as I already achieved quite a strong race yesterday. In fact, I didn't ski as ag-gressively in the upper part where I had my problems yesterday but I was very determined in the final part," Vonn said.

A 14-time downhill winner, Vonn took a high line to build speed through the gliding section of the course and reeled in Riesch little by little before finally reclaiming an ad-vantage in the final 15 seconds of the race.

With the sun shining and storm clouds long gone, American skiers complemented Vonn's second win of the season with a strong performance Saturday.

The 50th racer to leave the gates, racing just her third World Cup event, 21-year-old Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO) cruised to a career-best 10th after taking 18th in a confidence-inspiring Friday run.

Coming off a 10th-place finish in the first race, Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) set a fast early pace and held the lead temporarily until teammate Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA) jumped in front of her by .09 seconds on the next run.

They remained 1-2 through the first seven races, eventually falling to 11th and 12th when McKennis surpassed them later.

The U.S. team, which had five skiers in the top 30 on Friday, bettered that feat with four racers among the top 12 and six in the points. It was the first time since 1991 in Vail the U.S. had four of the top 12 skiers in a World Cup downhill.

Vonn, with 24 overall World Cup victories, closed on Riesch in the overall World Cup standings, trailing 316-309 after just two speed events among six overall.


Near miss in SG for Vonn

The course in Lake Louise appeared to be a good fit for Lindsey Vonn as she marked two downhill wins and, on Sunday, a second-place finish in the World Cup super G.

Vonn said, "I'm really happy with today. I thought I had a really solid run, and I thought I skied well on the pitch there. I just lost some time on the bottom, but it was a great day and I am really happy with second."

Vonn led the splits throughout three quarters of the race before falling back and finishing .03 seconds behind winner Elisabeth Goergl of Austria. France's Ingrid Jacquemod rounded out the podium in third.

"It would have been nice to get another win, but Lizzy just had a better run today," Vonn said. "I'm going to watch some video tonight and maybe see where I can make up some time for the next race."

The day marked Vonn's third podium in the super G at Lake Louise, and her 11th overall podium at the Canadian venue. Vonn credits such a great deal of success in Lake Louise over the years to her level of comfort there.

"I just have always liked Lake Louise and I think the hill really suits my strengths. I had my first World Cup win here and I have a lot of confidence on this hill," Vonn said. "I know what to do and I know the line everywhere. It just all makes me really confident when I am standing in the starting gate."

Following much success by the U.S. women over the weekend, Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) added her personal best World Cup finish coming in 20th.

After Lake Louise, Vonn moved into the World Cup lead with 389 points to 361 for Maria Riesch of Germany. Next best American is Julia Mancuso, 22nd with 68 points.

With the weekend of racing wrapped up in Lake Louise, the women's team now packs up for Europe where they will race technical events in Are, Sweden Dec. 12-13.

World Cup men in Colorado

Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) took the U.S. fans along on his wild ride as he burned the Audi FIS Birds of Prey downhill course for a fourth-place finish Saturday. It was Miller's best downhill result on the course since he won in the 2007 season.

For the second day, Switzerland's Carlo Janka took the win in Beaver Creek, followed in second by fellow Swiss Didier Cuche. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who won the downhill last season, was third.

Miller, 32, aced the top section of the course, then came into a compression that threw him off kilter. Regaining balance with his hand, Miller continued to gain speed, finishing in the lead from his starting position before falling back to fourth.

"Unfortunately the mistake on the pitch was really a pretty big one and it was hard to get back in line. I lost a lot of speed and line there," Miller said. "Once the edge gets in there clean, it just slingshots you out of the compression. I had to keep my hand on the snow otherwise I'd have flipped all the way around and landed on my back. But I got my skis back on the ground."

Also making a huge splash for the home crowd was Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY). The ever emerging dark horse, who finished fifth in the downhill portion of the super combined Friday, was an ace on the Birds downhill, started in 47th and finished 11th for the day.

Weibrecht had some insider info on the conditions of the Birds course thanks to a radio call to the top from Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA).

"I got a great course report from Marco. He said it's totally rippable. Having that knowledge and being able to know this is coming from a guy who was sitting in 11th at the time, it's great," Weibrecht said.

Joining Miller and Weibrecht in the top 20 were Sullivan in 14th, and Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID) in 24th.

Giant slalom 4th for Ligety

Olympic champion Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) brought an action filled weekend of alpine ski racing to a close Sunday as he took fourth in the Audi Birds of Prey giant slalom World Cup at Beaver Creek.

Switzerland's Carlo Janka finished the weekend of racing going three for three as he won every race the Birds course offered him. Janka is the early World Cup leader with 460 points ahead of second-place Didier Cuche of Switzerland, 355. Best American is Ligety, sixth with 175.

Ligety, who sat in fourth following the first run, had great speed throughout the course in his second run, but a bobble on the last transition cost him some momentum.

"I was going fast and I was having a good run, but I went just a touch too straight out of that last turn and was off balance a little bit, too. I ditched some speed there," Ligety said. "Both courses were running really fast, and that's not really my specialty. So in order to come down in fourth place against some guys who are better at these types of courses is pretty good."

Men's Alpine Head Coach Sasha Rearick said he was pleased with the way Ligety attacked the course.

Bode Miller and Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV) were subject to weather related equipment malfunctions which slowed "Jit" down and took Miller entirely out of the race.

"Tim Jitloff and Bode had some goggle issues this morning," Rearick said. "It froze up on the inside and they couldn't see a thing out of them, so that was a bummer to have that happen in this big event."

The giant slalom event brought three days of racing in Beaver Creek to a close, but fans can relive the excitement by tuning in to Versus for the downhill on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. ET followed by super combined at 5 p.m. ET. Versus will also air GS on Sunday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. ET.

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