Vonn completes career sweep in alpine opener
Lindsey Vonn used a blistering finish to win the season-opening World Cup giant slalom race Saturday and become the fifth female skier to win a race in all five Alpine disciplines.
The American three-time overall champion was fourth after the opening run before an impressive closing section on her second try allowed her to take it with a combined time of two minutes 24.43 seconds on the Rettenbach glacier near Soelden, Austria.
"I can't believe this. This is a big dream coming true," said Vonn, who was on a GS podium just once before. "A win in GS has always been so far out of reach for me. I knew that maybe one day I could win. But I definitely did not plan to do it here."
Vonn edged Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany by 0.04 seconds, while Austria's Elisabeth Goergl was 0.40 behind in third.
The top Canadian was Marie Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., in 25th. Marie-Pier Prefontaine of Saint Sauveur, Que., did not finish the first run.
The 22-year-old Gagnon was pleased with her result.
"I know I'm a way better skier than last year and it's going to be a good season," she said.
Overall World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch had two disappointing runs to finish 3.13 seconds back in 24th. The German skier lost almost two seconds in her opening run and misjudged a turn while attacking in the second.
"You should not overrate the first race of a season," said Hoefl-Riesch, who will have to keep trying for her first GS win. "There have been winners in Soelden that did not win much later in the season."
The discipline sweep feat has previously been achieved by Austria's Petra Kronberger, Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg, Croatia's Janica Kostelic and Sweden's Anja Paerson. Vonn is the second American skier to complete the feat after Bode Miller.
"I came into this race with not much confidence," said Vonn, who skipped most training sessions this week after hurting her hip in a crash during practice. "I just tried to have two good runs, to ski fast but no to do something special."
Vonn also matched Paerson's career tally with her 42nd World Cup victory. Only Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell (62), Switzerland's Vreni Schneider (55) and Austria's Renate Goetschl (46) have won more races.
Vonn admitted to nerves after she placed fourth in the opening run.
"I feared that I might hold back too much," said Vonn, who has won 35 of her races in downhill and super-G and has struggled for consistency in the technical races. "But my coaches told me before the second run to have confidence and to ski as fast I can."
Vonn recently switched to men's skis and is using the same equipment as world champion Ted Ligety. She said the change, plus off-season training, was paying off but still preferred not speculate on her chances of winning the overall title back from Hoefl-Riesch.
"Well, it's very early days," Vonn said. "I have a lot of momentum and confidence going into the rest of the season."
The season-opening World Cup weekend will conclude with a men's giant slalom on Sunday.