Vonn races to 1st downhill win of the season
American skier Lindsey Vonn won her first downhill race of the season to close the gap on overall World Cup leader Maria Riesch Saturday in Val d'Isere, France.
Vonn, the three-time defending World Cup champion and reigning Olympic downhill champion, had finished second behind her German rival in both downhills at Lake Louise two weeks ago but turned the tables at one of her favorite resorts.
Despite a wobble near the top section of the Oreiller-Killy course, Vonn finished in a time of 1 minute, 51.42 seconds.
"I love Val d'Isere, I've always had a good feeling here. It's great to have another victory," Vonn said.
Vonn has a prolific record at Val d'Isere, whatever the slope she races on.
She won World Cup downhill races here in 2005 and 2006, along with a downhill-Super-G world championship double and a World Cup super combined race last year.
This time, she made a spectacular recovery after nearly crashing on the turn just below the second jump.
She feared that slip would cost her, only for Riesch to fare much worse than expected.
"I made a big mistake at the top but I tried to make up time on the bottom, and I think I skied pretty well on the turns," Vonn said. "At the finish I thought it was a good time, but for sure Maria would beat me."
Swiss pair Nadja Kamer and Lara Gut were second and third, respectively.
Vonn was .001 down on Kamer at the second time split, but picked up speed on the second part of the course to beat her by 0.68 seconds, and the 19-year-old Gut by 0.80.
Riesch started poorly in soft conditions and kept losing more time to Vonn, finishing 2.28 seconds adrift in 24th place.
Vonn's win moves her to the top of the downhill standings ahead of Riesch, who leads Vonn by 52 points in the overall standings ahead of Sunday's super combined race.
The clear blue skies and bright sunshine were a stark contrast to Friday's weather when the super-G race — already postponed last weekend at the Swiss resort of St. Moritz — was called off again because of heavy snowfall and almost no visibility.
Elisabeth Goergl of Austria finished in fourth place on Saturday, with French veteran Ingrid Jacquemod tied for fifth with Italy's Johanna Schnarf, who was the first to start.
Riesch's run, meanwhile, went from bad to worse.
She was 1.09 behind Vonn on the first time split, then 1.10 and 1.95.
Moments after crossing the line, Riesch looked startled, shrugged her shoulders and then bowed her head.
Andrea Dettling was one of the first down on Saturday and crashed near the top section, flying sideways into the netting. But the Swiss skier got back up on her feet after a few seconds without any assistance and appeared unharmed.