Stechert edges Vonn to win downhill |

Stechert edges Vonn to win downhill

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Germany's Gina Stechert, center, winner of an alpine ski, women's World Cup downhill race, celebrates on the podium with second placed Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, left, and third placed Anja Paerson, of Sweden, in Tarvisio, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

TARVISIO, Italy ” A fraction of a second lost pushing off at the start with her injured right thumb. Maybe one little bobble. Perhaps a mistimed lean forward as she crossed the finish line.

Whatever it was, Lindsey Vonn lost a World Cup downhill Saturday by 0.01 seconds.

“I thought I skied really well. I made no mistakes. It’s just tough to lose by one-hundredth of a second,” Vonn said. “It’s like a snap of your fingers. It’s nothing. It’s pretty crazy.”

Gina Stechert of Germany captured her first World Cup victory, denying Vonn a chance to set a U.S. women’s record of 19 World Cup victories.

Taking advantage of an early start, Stechert completed the Prampero course in 1 minute, 59.94 seconds. Anja Paerson of Sweden was 0.39 back in third.

The 21-year-old Stechert’s best previous finish was fourth in a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December.

“I had a great feeling during my run, and I confirmed my thoughts when I saw my time,” she said.

Stechert was the fifth skier out of the gate, and warmer conditions slowed later competitors.

Vonn started 17th and was 0.08 ahead of Stechert through three straight checkpoints before losing her lead when the changing snow conditions had the biggest impact. The course is 2.04 miles, the longest the women have raced this season.

“It’s just tough here. The weather comes in and out and the snow temperature changes quite a bit,” Vonn said. “Hopefully it stays a fair race tomorrow.”

A super-G concludes the weekend Sunday. Vonn opened the weekend by finishing second to Maria Riesch in Friday’s super-combi.

Vonn is skiing with a special splint on her right hand after slicing her thumb open on a broken champagne bottle while celebrating her sweep of the speed races ” downhill and super-G ” at the world championships.

The four stitches in her thumb were removed by her trainer Friday night, and she applied a bit too much pressure during the downhill.

“It really hurt,” Vonn said. “But I know I’m skiing well and I know I can do it even with my hand.”

Vonn also lost by 0.01 to Nadia Styger in Whistler, British Columbia, when she clinched her downhill title last season.

“It’s happened before, but it’s disappointing,” Vonn said.

Still, Vonn increased her lead in the overall World Cup standings with 1,274 points. Maria Riesch, who finished 10th, is next with 1,061 points, and Paerson is third with 960.

“I really need to build up my advantage over the next two weeks,” Vonn said. “I don’t want to have too much stress at finals, and Maria and Anja are still skiing really well.”

Vonn also added to her lead in the downhill standings with 320 points. Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, who finished seventh, is next with 262 points and Paerson is third with 220. Three downhills remain.

“I really would love to defend my overall title. That’s been my main goal this season,” Vonn said. “The super-G and downhill titles at the world championships were amazing, and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but at the same time I’m really hoping to defend the overall title. That’s most important to me.”

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