Crash costs Vonn likely victory, overall World Cup lead |

Crash costs Vonn likely victory, overall World Cup lead

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lindsey Vonn of the United States falls during the second run of the women's World Cup slalom skiing competition at Mount Sljeme, in Zagreb, Croatia, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009. Vonn was leading after the first run. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

ZAGREB, Croatia ” With the finish and the victory literally in sight, Lindsey Vonn made a costly error.

The 24-year-old American crashed just five gates before the finish Sunday on the icy Crveni Spust slalom course, losing a likely victory and the overall lead in the World Cup standings.

Maria Riesch of Germany finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 58.69 seconds to win her third straight slalom and take the lead in the standings.

Vonn led after the opening leg and was 0.94 seconds faster than Riesch at the second intermediate time in the final run before hitting a gate and crashing. She was not injured.

“So many things can happen in a second and your day is done,” said Vonn, who was skiing aggressively because she wasn’t aware of her massive lead over Riesch.

“I wasn’t sure about the time while I was skiing,” the American said. “I heard ‘one second’ and I thought I was one second behind for sure as I’ve had a mistake at the top. I would have slowed down a bit had I known that I was a second ahead.”

Riesch has 607 points to lead the overall standings for the first time in her career. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, who finished seventh, is next with 543 and Vonn is third with 530.

“I didn’t ski that great today and Lindsey was the strongest,” Riesch said. “I was lucky she went out. Winning was just a present for me.”

No Americans earned World Cup points: Vonn and Hailey Duke didn’t finish their second run, Julia Mancuso was out after losing control of a ski early in her opening run, Kaylin Richardson was disqualified for a gate error and Sarah Schleper did not qualify for the final leg.

Nicole Gius of Italy was second, 0.44 seconds behind, and slalom world champion Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic took third, 0.63 behind Riesch.

Riesch didn’t believe she had a chance of winning after completing her second run.

“My plan was to attack but I just didn’t feel confident,” said Riesch, who trailed her friend Vonn by 0.43 seconds after the opening leg. “I had a mistake early on and the conditions were very difficult.”

“These three wins are starting to make me nervous. The expectations get really high now and a lot of people expect me to win every race.”

Zahrobska won the slalom in Aspen, Colo., in November and is third in the discipline standings behind Riesch and Vonn.

“Everything is still open,” Zahrobska said. “I am happy to be back on the podium and hopefully that makes me confident for the upcoming races.”

Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia, who was third going into the final run, also crashed shortly before the finish.

Nicole Hosp of Austria, the 2007 overall champion, will be out for six weeks after injuring her left knee in a crash during warmups. Hosp, who also won the slalom title in 2007, broke the upper part of her shinbone and tore ligaments, the Austrian ski federation said. It said surgery will not be needed.

A men’s World Cup slalom in Zagreb is scheduled for Tuesday night.

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