Riesch wins downhill, Vonn nearly crashes in Italy
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn may be skiing too fast for her own good.
For the fourth time this season, the Olympic downhill champion made a big mistake and needed a spectacular recovery in a World Cup race.
Twice this season Vonn has managed to salvage victories, but this error relegated the American to third and handed a precious downhill victory to overall World Cup rival Maria Riesch.
“I thought for sure I was going to crash,” said Vonn, lost control on a right turn midway down and nearly did the splits.
Riesch had an error-free run of 1 minute, 39.30 seconds on the sun-drenched Olympia delle Tofane course for her fourth win this season. American Julia Mancuso finished second, 0.91 seconds behind, while Vonn was 1.00 back.
Riesch has three downhill wins to Vonn’s two this season, and increased her overall lead ahead of Vonn to 165 points.
“Every win in downhill is special because Lindsey is so strong in this discipline,” Riesch said. “This race could become very important for the overall.”
Vonn was faster than Riesch through the first checkpoint but her left ski slipped out wide and she would have hit the fence at full speed if not for a strenuous recovery.
“I was definitely more shocked than I was in any other recovery or mistake,” Vonn said. “I just saw the net coming at me so fast, and it took me a second to kind of get my thoughts together, and then I was like, ‘OK, get in your tuck and keep going.'”
Vonn appeared to avoid injury, although she wasn’t completely sure.
“My left knee is feeling a little funny. I got to get it checked out, but I think I’m fine,” she said.
Vonn attributes her streak of spectacular recoveries to her added physical training over the summer, although she acknowledges that the training has also enabled her to ski faster – perhaps too fast.
“It’s allowing me to make recoveries and it’s also allowing me to ski at a level that I don’t think I’ve skied at before,” Vonn said. “When you’re going fast and you have that speed, anything can happen.
“It’s different when you come into a turn (6 mph) faster than you did before,” Vonn added. “It changes the dynamics of the turn, it changes where the pressure is, it changes how much force is on the ski. When you have that much more speed, I feel like a lot more things can go wrong. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening.”
Mancuso is improving each race, earning a fourth place in the super-G on Friday. She took silver behind Vonn in last year’s Olympic downhill, but hadn’t finished as high as second in a World Cup race since a super-G here three years ago.
“With the level of competition now you have to have a perfect run. I made a few small mistakes and Maria skied perfect, so I’m still happy with second place,” Mancuso said. “I think I’m just a couple of mistakes away from winning.”
Vonn won the super-G with a near-perfect run. But in the previous downhill in Zauchensee, Austria, she skied well off course on a sharp right turn, somehow hanging on to win.
She also won despite a wobble near the top of her downhill run last month in Val d’Isere, France. Before that, Vonn went flying off the course in Lake Louise, Alberta. She recovered, but it gave another win to Riesch.
Vonn also had a near wipeout in Wednesday’s opening training run.
“You have to ask, ‘Why are we suddenly making all these mistakes?'” said Vonn’s husband and chief adviser Thomas. “She has another gear because of the training, but sometimes it’s tough to harness that gear when it’s new to you, so I think that’s where the mistakes are coming from.
“Overall, she’s in a better place because she’s able to make the recoveries. Obviously, we don’t want the mistakes, but we do want that extra gear, eventually.”
Vonn will aim to clean up her skiing in another super-G event on Sunday.
“To know I can make a mistake like that and still be on the podium says a lot,” Vonn said. “I’m definitely happy about it, but all I want to do is have a good clean run. I’m just going to keep trying to have solid runs and eventually I’ll figure it out.”
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