Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vonn joins Tomba with her 50th win

World Cup downhill at Garmisch

Squaw Valley’s Julia Mancuso won her sixth World Cup career race with a first place in Sunday’s super giant slalom at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. U.S. Ski Team photo

Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn probably never thought she'd be mentioned in the same sentence as Alberto "Tomba la Bomba" Tomba.

But those words—Vonn and Tomba—were rolling off the tongues of everyone Saturday after an impressive and historic Vonn win in a FIS World Cup downhill in Germany.

Vonn, 27, of Vail, Colo. produced a stunning, on-edge downhill run at Garmisch-Partenkirchen to win the historic 50th Audi FIS Alpine World Cup of her career.

The victory, her 25th in downhill, came after she trailed at the first four race intervals and survived a near crash on a bumpy side hill called the Ice Hang.

With the win, Vonn stayed in third place on the all-time World Cup women's winning list behind Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria (62) and Vreni Schneider of Switzerland (55). Men's racers with 50 or more wins are Ingemark Stenmark of Sweden (86), Hermann Maier of Austria (54) and Tomba (50).

Tomba, 45, of Bologna, Italy, was one of the most colorful of World Cup racers. He dominated technical races in the late 1980s and 1990s. Of 50 wins, 35 were slalom, 15 giant slalom.

Vonn was four when Tomba won Olympic gold medals in slalom and giant slalom at Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1988

She said after her dramatic win Saturday, "I am just so happy, every win is special, but 50 is a huge mark. I feel like today will be a day when I look back at my career and see what I have achieved. I have a lot more to do, I have a lot more years of skiing in me, but Alberto Tomba has 50 ski wins and he is one of the best skiers of all time, I don't see myself in that way, but to know that I have accomplished so much to this point is amazing."

Vonn's ninth win this season came on a day when subzero temperatures of -13 forced competitors to tape their faces to avoid frostbite. She wore a new U.S. Ski Team Spyder downhill suit for the victory, which helped the American women expand their Nation's Cup downhill lead to 433 points over Austria.

And it placed Vonn soundly in the 2011-12 World Cup overall lead by nearly 500 points. She is now second all-time of all women downhillers, Moser-Proell's having won 36 DHs.

She added, "That (the near crash) wasn't part of the plan. I hit a bump and lost the inside edge of my ski and went onto my hip. From that point until the finish I skied well and was able to make up some time. It was a tough race.

U.S. women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, "This is pretty special, I'd actually call it emotional. This is a milestone. We have an unbelievable staff that contributed to this. They have a lot of knowledge and energy that transfers directly to the athletes. It's a long season, but they always keep the energy up and you need that to be successful as a team.

"Lindsey's near crash happened about 20 meters from me. It actually stopped my heart a little bit because it's not a good place to crash. She came in and dropped the hip a little bit then hit that super bumpy section. That little mistake almost ended in a crash, but she pulled it off like nobody else could and didn't actually lose all that much speed there."

On Sunday in the Garmisch super giant slalom, Vonn caught an edge and DNFd, leaving room for three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso to win the World Cup SG.

Mancuso, 27, of Squaw Valley, Ca. attacked a gnarly Garmisch super G that forced 14 racers off course to win her first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup of the season and sixth of her career. It was Mancuso's fourth podium of the season.

Interestingly, Mancuso won her fourth World Championships medal, an super G silver, on the same hill last season. Mancuso and Vonn last combined for a sweep Dec. 19-20, 2006 in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Mancuso said, "At this point in my career, I really want to win. I go into every race with that attitude and I knew that today—just like the other super Gs—you have to put it all on the line. You can't hold back at all if you want to win a super G. When I crossed the finish line, I thought, 'if that wasn't good enough, then I don't know what is.'"

Vonn continued her march on the 1,725 points she amassed last season in finishing a close second to Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch (1,728) in the final World Cup women's standings. Through Feb. 5, Vonn now has 1,350 points and leadings the overall standings by 482 points.

Vonn, by winning the World Cup this winter, would break a logjam in the second-place category of most all-time career World Cup overall titles. Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell leads with six titles from 1971-79, while Vonn is tied with three others in second place, with three.

Vonn leads the downhill standings 530-300 over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. But with Sunday's DNF, Vonn saw her SG lead shrink to 313-293 over Anna Fenninger of Austria. Mancuso stands third in the SG ranks with 269.

For the men, last year's World Cup overall winner Ivica Kostelic, 32, of Croatia stretched his overall lead from 80 to 116 points over Marcel Hirscher, 22, of Austria. But the men's overall race remains up for grabs—with just 300 points separating the top five.

Here are top World Cup standings and top Americans after the six events (3 men, 3 women) at Chamonix and Garmisch-Partenkirchen last weekend:

Women: 1—Lindsey Vonn (USA) 1,350 points. 2—Tina Maze (Slov.) 868. 3—Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germ.) 796. 4—Elisabeth Goergl (Aust.) 674. 5—Anna Fenninger (Aust.) 667. 6—Julia Mancuso (USA) 607.

Men: 1—Ivica Kostelic (Cro.) 941 points. 2—Marcel Hirscher (Aust.) 825. 3—Beat Feux (Switz.) 793. 4—Didier Cuche (Switz.) 639, downhill leader 473-437 over Klaus Kroell of Austria. 5—Aksel Lund Svindal (Nor.) 631. 7—Ted Ligety (USA) 578. 8—Bode Miller (USA) 562, fourth in the DH standings with 333.

The women's World Cup now moves to Soldeu, Andorra for a giant slalom and slalom. The final men's super combined of the season will be Feb. 12 in Sochi, Russia. Sochi, the 2014 Olympic host, will also have a downhill preceded by three training runs.

Miller second in Chamonix DH

The World Cup men staged two downhills last Friday and Saturday at Chamonix, France.

On Friday, Bode Miller, 34, of Franconia, N.H. came within .01 of victory as Klaus Kroell snagged the first Austrian speed win of the season. Swiss Didier Cuche finished third to snap a two-race win streak, but he retained the World Cup downhill points lead.

Miller's fourth World Cup podium this season topped a U.S. effort of three racers in the top 13. Middleton's Erik Fisher was 12th and Travis Ganong 13th. It was Fisher's best result since Jan. 24, 2009 (11th, Kitzbuehel downhill).

Said Miller, "It's tough. There are so many places where a hundredth can come or go. I didn't really have a great reach for the finish line, which I always try to do well. That's the worst place to lose it, right out of the start or right at the finish line.

"Because everyone's so close together with the ability, and the courses seem to be easier—they're slower—there are fewer things that separate the field. A lot of these races are unbelievably close. That's a challenge in itself to really make sure that you stay focused and pay attention to the things that matter.

U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick said, "Bode skied amazing on the top. It was just awesome skiing. It will be interesting to see everyone else try that line tomorrow. He also executed through the middle, which is definitely not his forte—the gliding and micro terrain—but he did a good job. He came out and charged."

Saturday's downhill was a great day for the Canadians (1-3-5 finishers), but Miller had another solid performance with an 8th place and Idahoan Fisher was 12th for the second straight day.

Canadians Jan Hudac, Erik Guay and Benjamin Thomsen finished 1-3-5. Said coach Rearick, "Those Canadians put on quite a show. They lit it up."

On Sunday, Fisher continued his strong weekend by snagging the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super combined points of his career as Austrian Romed Baumann captured the final win in Chamonix.

Fisher, 12th in both previous downhill races, finished 18th in the opening run and held onto 23rd after the slalom. Miller was among 13 racers who went out in the downhill. Austrian Romed Baumann won for the second time in his career. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was seventh, but continued to lead the overall and super combined standings.

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