It’s a downhill gold for Vail racer Lindsey Vonn |

It’s a downhill gold for Vail racer Lindsey Vonn

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, reacts after setting the fastest time in the Women's Downhill race, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Val d'Isere, France, Monday, Feb. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

VAL D’ISERE, France ” Lindsey Vonn won the women’s downhill Monday for her second gold at the world championships, holding off a stiff challenge from Swiss teenager Lara Gut.

The American was timed in 1 minute, 30.31 seconds for her run down the Rhone-Alpes course.

Gut finished second, 0.52 behind, to match her silver medal in the super-combined, and Nadia Fanchini of Italy was third, 0.57 back.

Vonn, of Vail, Colo., opened the championships by winning the super G on Tuesday for her first career gold medal at a worlds or Olympics.

“I was so nervous today,” Vonn said. “Lara Gut looked like she had an amazing run and I didn’t know if I was going to do it.”

The downhill was initially scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed due to excessive snow. Vonn built up so much tension that she took the unusual move of asking her husband, a former U.S. Ski Team racer and her chief adviser, to stay with her up at the start for the first time in her career.

“My nerves were out of control,” Vonn said. “I realized there was going to be a problem probably for today, so I talked to my husband, and he talked to me last night and this morning and then I said, ‘I need you. I need you at the start. You need to help me.’

“And he was there for me and said all the right things. It really got me in the right frame of mind. He was making jokes and trying to relax me. And then when I was in the start, he was telling me to take it, to do it. He believed in me, and that made me believe more in myself. I’m just so thankful that I have someone like him. He’s the reason why I’m so successful in my sport.”

Vonn has now won four of her last five races, her only loss coming when she was disqualified in the slalom portion of Friday’s super-combined. Before the worlds, she posted two World Cup victories in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Vonn joined Andrea Mead Lawrence as the only American women to win two golds at a world championship. Lawrence won the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Olympics, which doubled as the worlds.

“To get something historical means so much to me,” Vonn said. “That is why I work so hard out here doing my best.”

Adding to her two silvers at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago, Vonn tied Tamara McKinney for the U.S. women’s record of four career medals at the world championships.

Vonn also matched her childhood hero Picabo Street, who won the downhill at the 1996 worlds in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Another American, Hilary Lindh, won in 1997 in Sestriere, Italy.

“Picabo has always been my huge idol,” Vonn said. “I don’t know all the records. People are telling me randomly the records that I’m breaking, but for me, today it’s just about the win, the gold medal.”

Defending champion Anja Paerson was faster than Vonn midway down before the Swede made several errors and finished tied for 12th with Aurelie Revillet of France.

The 17-year-old Gut registered the top speed at 64.6 mph but couldn’t match Vonn’s line.

“I fought the whole way down and nailed the bottom section,” Vonn said. “It was really important to carry the speed and that is the reason why I was able to win.”

While her run was the fastest at the time, Gut shook her head when she crossed the finish line.

“I knew it was insufficient for gold,” Gut said. “I have incredible pain in the belly. I don’t know why. It’s certainly not the food, nor nervousness.”

Gut has raced only four World Cup downhills, with her best result being third in her downhill debut in St. Moritz, Switzerland a year ago. Her only World Cup win came in super-G last season, also in St. Moritz.

After missing much of the season with an irregular heart beat, Fanchini won a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, to open this season. Her sister Elena took silver in downhill at the 2005 worlds in Bormio-Santa Caterina, Italy.

Elisabeth Goergl of Austria finished fourth and Marion Rolland and Marchand-Arvier of France were fifth and sixth.

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