Wednesday, January 27, 2010

With 30 wins, Vonn closes in on American record

Five straight downhill victories


Photo by Getty Images/Vincenzo Pinto Lindsey Vonn waves the flag from the podium at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy on Saturday after her 30th World Cup victory, a downhill success.

From the U.S. Ski Team

Lindsey Vonn, 25, of Vail, Colo. continued her rise into the elite ranks of women's skiers Saturday, notching her eighth win of the season and career 30th Audi FIS Alpine World Cup victory—including a sweep of all five downhills this season.

Vonn is closing in on the all-time American World Cup winning record of 32 by New Hampshire's Bode Miller, still an active U.S. racer. Dating back to last season, she now boasts six straight downhill wins.

At this point, Vonn (17 DH wins, 8 SG, 2 SL and 3 KB) has tied Croatia's Janica Kostelic for eighth place on the all-time World Cup women's winning list, each with 30 victories. The all-time leader is Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria with 62 victories from 1969-80, including an all-time record 36 in downhill.

The all-time men's leader is Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark with 86 wins from 1973-89, including 46 in giant slalom and 40 in slalom. Miller is seventh overall with his 32.

"It's a phenomenal achievement," said U.S. Women's Head Coach Jim Tracy about Minnesota native Vonn. "It's something that, when you start your career, you dream and you wonder if you can ever get to be that good. All of us are extremely proud of her."

In Saturday's downhill at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, Vonn nailed the Olympia delle Tofane course in 1:37.70. Vonn's German rival Maria Riesch was in second, 0.42 seconds behind. It was a slightly closer affair than Vonn's 0.67-second super G victory Friday over Swiss racer Fabienne Suter.

Cortina, where Vonn won two years ago, is considered the most prestigious downhill on the women's tour. She has three victories overall and eight career podiums at Cortina.

It was her eighth overall win this season, putting Vonn within one triumph of her personal mark of nine titles set last winter.

"You can't just cruise down and have a solid run and be in the lead," Vonn said. "You have to really risk something but also ski smart. I feel like I found that rhythm and know what to do. It's nice when you have the confidence in yourself to know exactly what you have to do every day. It helps so much."

In typical Vonn fashion, she started fast and ended faster, eclipsing Riesch's early pace as five U.S. women found themselves in the points.

"It was very close," Tracy said. "She by no means was crushing the field. She had to ski really well to pull it out. But it's a pretty special place, and we're all involved with a pretty special athlete right now".

2006 gold medalist Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) grabbed her best finish this season in eighth place, just more than a second back of Vonn and 0.2 seconds behind third-place Anja Paerson of Sweden.

On Friday, two-time defending World Cup champion Vonn retook the overall lead Friday, notching her second consecutive super G win and first victory in the discipline at Cortina.

Vonn, who hasn't missed a super G podium in four tries this season, surpassed Germany's Maria Riesch atop the 2010 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup leaderboard after the dominant .67-second margin romp.

After Sunday's 19th-place finish in the Cortina giant slalom, Vonn has 1,106 points to lead Riesch (1,050) by 56 points. Vonn stands in first place in downhill with a perfect 500 points, holds the SG lead with 340 and is first in combined with 100. Riesch is the slalom leader with 433 points.

Last winter, Vonn won the overall title 1,788 to 1,424 over Riesch. Vonn won the downhill globe with 502 points in seven races, with two wins and six podiums.

"Cortina has a special place for me in my heart, because I had my first podium here, and I always had confidence here," Vonn said. "It's a fun course, it's always perfect snow, perfect weather, and this year is exactly the same as in the past years."

Women move on to St. Moritz, Switz. for speed races Jan. 27-31, the final World Cup events before the 2010 Winter Olympics starting Feb. 12 at Whistler Mountain north of Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Bode ninth in Hahnenkamm

Bode Miller, 32, of Franconia, N.H. was ninth Saturday in the 70th year of the legendary Hahnenkamm Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill, the final chance for American speed skiers to earn their U.S. Olympic Team starts.

Switzerland's Didier Cuche won for the second day in a row as five Americans landed in the top 26.

"From top to bottom, it was a challenging race," said U.S. Men's Head Coach Sasha Rearick.

"Everybody was coming out to win today. The slope was perfect, bluebird sun, and every single one of the guys in the top 30 was out there with one mission: to win this race."

Miller, who had been the fastest in training Thursday, took an early lead but lost it about a third of the way down the hill in the only major World Cup downhill the two-time overall champion is yet to win.

"Bode skied very aggressively up top, but he lost some time in the middle," Rearick said. "On the bottom he didn't quite ski as aggressively on a fine line as he normally can do."

Making a final statement for the coaches before Vancouver picks, Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID) tied Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) for 18th.

More than 40,000 fans were on hand for Scott Macartney's (Crystal Mountain, WA) first downhill start in Kitzbuehel since his famous crash two years ago. Macartney recovered last year only to tear his ACL in Wengen, one week before his return.

"It's good to be back," Macartney said. "It was tough the first day, tough to really wrap it up on this hill, but I kept getting better, and every day I was faster. I had a couple of mistakes today and was out of the points, but it was nice to get back to Kitzbuehel and charge down the hill again."

Sunday's slalom concluded competition at Kitzbuehel, where there was a podium for the top three slalom racers and another for the fastest combined racers from Saturday's downhill and Sunday's slalom. It is the only traditional combined of the World Cup season and does count toward the discipline title.

Ted Ligety, 25, of Park City, Utah took 10th in Sunday's combined after a tough second run landed him 23rd in slalom. Kitzbuehel is the only World Cup to use the traditional combined format of one run of downhill (taken from Saturday) and two runs of slalom.

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic won the combined title and Germany's Felix Neureuther got the slalom win, marking the first time a father and son have shared victory in Kitzbuehel. Neureuther's dad, Christian, won six slaloms in his World Cup career, the last at Kitzbuehel in 1979.

Austria's Benjamin Raich (853) still leads the World Cup men's overall standings over Switzerland's Carlo Janka (829), with Ligety in 10th place at 435 points and Miller 12th place with a 361-point total.

Ligety moved on to the night slalom in Schladming, Austria Tuesday, then Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, next weekend, where two GS races and slalom are on tap. He has won the GS there the last two years. The additional race this year is a makeup race from Adelboden, Switz.

After taking ninth in Saturday's downhill, Miller didn't start in the first run because of his nagging ankle. Miller was sore after Saturday's race and decided it was still sore after morning warmups. He opted instead to get ready for the slalom in Schladming.

In Friday's SG, Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) stepped up their game in the Olympics hunt, tying for 11th in Kitzbuehel, .70 seconds behind winner Didier Cuche of Switzerland.

The pair missed the podium by little more than half a second in a tight field, and Miller made a slight mistake but finished 17th, just .11 seconds back.

Athletes lend aid to Haiti

Alpine World Champions Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) and Lindsey Vonn's (Vail, CO) race bibs from this past weekend are up for auction.

It's a grassroots effort driven by the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup athletes.

Both men's and women's race bibs from Kitzbuehel, Austria and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy—two of the season's biggest races—are available to the highest bidder on eBay with all proceeds going to the earthquake relief effort in Haiti.

Bibs from Friday's super G in Cortina, which was won by Vonn, are already up for auction at www.ebay.com (Keyword: cortina haiti). Men's bibs from Saturday's 70th running of the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, captured by Swiss Didier Cuche, go online at www.ebay.at (Keywords: haiti startnummer).

In early bidding, start numbers from U.S. skiers Vonn, Miller, and Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) are proving to be the most valuable.

"This is such a huge disaster and it just seems right to do something," said 2006 Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA), who spearheaded the auction on the women's tour. "I've realized that little things can make a big difference. We're living our dream and inspiring others to do the best that they can. So having a bib in a lot of ways is getting a piece of the excitement."

Two summers ago, Mancuso and British racer Chemmy Alcott raised over $40,000 for Right to Play by raising money through an ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Each season, all of Mancuso's bibs are auctioned for charity through her website.

"When you're racing, you feel like there are so many things that you can control," said Vonn following her super G win Friday. "But really, there's so much in the world you can't control and unfortunately those things affect a lot of people. It's important for everyone to do what they can and I hope our little bit helps."

For each side of the tour, there is an athlete working group made up of leaders from each national team. The men's working group met Thursday and "Downhillers for Haiti" became the most important message of that voice.

"It's really cool, it's from the athletes," said Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, WA), the U.S. Ski Team representative in the men's working group. "We're very far away and in a different world, but we're all thinking about it and trying to do what we can to help support it."

Each auction closes this weekend, so bid early and bid often.

"Kitzbuehel is the coolest bib we have all season. They're already personalized with our names, but now they each have our signatures on them as well. Guaranteed, some of these guys are going to be Olympic gold medalists next month."

Women's bibs from Cortina are up now at www.ebay.com (Keyword: haiti cortina), and men's bibs are online at www.ebay.at, (Keywords: haiti startummer). Auctions close Saturday morning USA time.




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