Vonn’s downhill streak ends as Olympics loom
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland – Lindsey Vonn is no longer perfect in downhill races. Not to worry, she says. It might help her win an Olympic title.
Vonn, the world champion and two-time World Cup champ in the event, is now a mere 5-for-6 this season. She placed fifth Saturday after her ski hit a hole in a race won by Germany’s Maria Riesch.
“I was hoping to continue on with the series, but everything has to come to an end and no one’s perfect,” Vonn said.
The American had actually won six straight, including the final downhill race of last season. Vonn’s next test in the downhill is a big one – the Vancouver Games on Feb. 17.
“I do think it helps a little bit going into the Olympics that I haven’t won all the World Cups,” Vonn said. “Maybe that takes a little of the pressure off me. As soon as you get wrapped up in records and those kinds of things, you always get distracted.”
The victory ended Vonn’s chance of matching the streak set by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell, who swept all eight downhills in the 1972-73 season.
Riesch was timed in 1 minute, 41.31 seconds on the Corviglia course and trails Vonn by 61 points in the overall standings. Ingrid Jacquemod of France was second, 0.79 seconds behind, and Fabienne Suter of Switzerland was third.
Seven of the top 10 finishers were among the first 11 starters, including two more Americans. Alice McKennis was a career-best ninth on the World Cup circuit and Chelsea Marshall was a season-best 10th. Other American finishers were: Stacey Cook (12th), Leanne Smith (18th), Julia Mancuso (22nd) and Laurenne Ross (28th).
Riesch, three times a runner-up during Vonn’s six wins, saw her victory as a boost for the Olympics.
“It’s an important success for me to have the feeling that I can win,” she said.
Vonn wasn’t happy about the hole in the course created from Friday’s super combined.
“I knew the hole was there. It was definitely dangerous,” she said. “But when I was on course, the light was so flat I couldn’t see anything. I lost my direction and barely made my next gate. I was pretty close to going out there.”
The trouble spot also affected Tina Maze of Slovenia. The 2008 St. Moritz winner was taken so far down the hill she thought she’d missed a gate and skied casually to the finish. Nadja Kamer of Switzerland went way too wide and was disqualified.
Riesch skied out in Friday’s race when she misjudged her line. Vonn was pleased her friend and rival regrouped the next day.
“For her to come back and have the win today was really cool,” Vonn said.
Vonn’s focus turns to Sunday’s super G – the final World Cup race before the Olympics – and keeping a safe distance from teammates who have suddenly taken sick.
“I’m trying,” she joked “to stay away from them as much as I can.”
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American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.