TARVISIO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) came within .01 seconds of a milestone 19th World Cup victory Saturday finishing second in a downhill to expand her lead in both the overall and downhill points. Unheralded German Gina Stechert won the race for her career first World Cup podium.
"To lose by one hundredth is always difficult," said Vonn, who was also second in Friday's super combined. "But I still got points for the overall, and for the downhill, too."
Stechert posted a winning time of 1:59.94, a mere .01 ahead of Vonn with super combined title winner Anja Paerson of Sweden in third, a full .38 seconds behind Vonn. The top two were the only racers to post times faster than two minutes.
"My first World Cup win was in Lake Louise and it was a great day," said Vonn. "This was special for Gina. I'm really happy for her. She skied really well."
The difference may have been determined by sun. Stechert ran fifth, Vonn 17th and the clear skies heated up the air and therefore the snow throughout the morning. Vonn was leading the race until the final split where the snow was most affected by the warming conditions.
"Lindsey's run was really good, maybe not as solid as yesterday's downhill, but she's strong and continues to put herself in a better spot as the season winds down," said Hoedlmoser. "Her only focus now is to win the overall and downhill titles again."
During the off-season, Vonn set goals of improving her slalom, winning a World Championship title and retaining both her World Cup overall and downhill titles.
To date, she has tallied 440 World Cup slalom points with two victories in the discipline and is second in the standings behind Maria Riesch of Germany. In 2008 Vonn finished 32nd in the slalom standings with 46 points.
At the 2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, she swept gold in the speed events winning both super G and downhill.
After Saturday's World Cup, she holds a 213 point lead over Riesch, her best friend, in the overall chase and carries a 58 point lead in the downhill standings with just two races remaining on the calendar.
Vonn clearly has her priorities in order. Topping U.S. great Tamara McKinney's 18 World Cup victory mark, to her, would be a bonus.
"We're looking at the big picture for sure, that's what it's all about," said U.S. Ski Team Speed Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "Obviously Lindsey is looking for that win, but it's not something you can wish for. She skied really solid and when you look at the times, she and Stechert clearly separated themselves from the rest of the girls. Stechert just skied an absolutely flawless race."
Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) continued to show that she's committed to getting back into winning form, finishing 13th with Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, VT) also scoring points in 17th. Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA), Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN) and Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) finished just outside the top 30.
"Julia did a much better job today," added Hoedlmoser. "She's moving in the right direction and Chelsea totally stepped it up. She crashed in the final training run and didn't finish yesterday's downhill in the super combined, so this was a sweet finish for her.
"Cookie is really bummed about her finish. She was skiing so fast in the training runs and knows she can be up there. That's frustrating for all of us. I was also pleased with some of the skiing I saw today from Keely and Kaylin, both of them looked really good in the top section."
Action wraps up in Tarvisio Sunday with a super G scheduled for 5:30 a.m. ET. Universal Sports will have coverage of Saturday's downhill on their 24-hour TV network and also on demand at www.UniversalSports.com with Sunday's super G streaming live.
"I'm excited about tomorrow, super G has been going well for me," Vonn said. "I'm just going to go out there and try my best tomorrow, and hopefully I cannot lose by one hundredth. Hopefully the conditions will stay the same."
AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Tarvisio, Italy - Feb. 21, 2009
1. Gina Stechert, Germany, 1:59.94
2. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1:59.95
3. Anja Paerson, Sweden, 2:00.33
4. Nadja Kamer, Switzerland, 2:00.70
5. Aurelie Revillet, France, 2:01.09
13. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 2:01.58
17. Chelsea Marshall, Pittsfield, VT, 2:01.75
31. Stacey Cook, Mammoth, CA, 2:02.31
32. Kaylin Richardson, Edina, MN, 2:02.36
34. Keely Kelleher, Big Sky, MT, 2:02.63
57. Megan McJames, Park City, UT, 2:04.69
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Complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=54093
photos Janos Schmidt