TARVISIO, Italy Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) finished second Friday in the final World Cup super combined, shelving her run for the American record books one more day. With 18 World Cup wins, one more surpasses Tamara McKinney's total and officially secures Vonn as the greatest female ski racer in American history.
After sweeping World Championships gold in the speed events, Vonn led the opening leg of downhill before slalom World Champion Maria Riesch of Germany edged her by .49 seconds for the win. Swede Anja Paerson captured the World Cup super combined title despite finishing the day in fifth.
"I knew it would be tough to win with Maria and almost impossible to catch Anja for the super-combi title, so my goal was just to finish and get points for the overall," said Vonn.
Wearing a new green and white Spyder speed suit, Vonn rocketed to the downhill lead by .76 seconds, immediately dismissing all theories that her injured right thumb would hamper her ability in speed.
"My hand is feeling a little better, but it's difficult at the start to push off," she said. "Also, in the slalom it's difficult because I'm hitting my hand on every gate, but I'm happy with the way I skied today."
A small bobble at the top of the slalom portion cost her a few tenths, but Riesch's flawless second run, the fastest of the day, may have been too much to catch.
"Lindsey skied really well in the downhill and proved that speed is really no problem with her splint," said women's speed Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser, who has been with the U.S. Ski Team for 14 seasons and coaching Vonn for six. "She was a bit conservative in the slalom, but that didn't really matter. Even if she'd had won, Paerson still would have taken the super combined title. It was good for her to finish the slalom on her feet and score some points. That was the goal today."
Regardless, Vonn retains the overall points lead boosting her total to 1194 to 1035 for Riesch, her best friend and No. 1 challenger. Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) was 19th,while Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN) proved she's on her way back finishing 28th for her first World Cup points since Dec. of 2007.
The Buck Hill Ski Club product is currently tied with American great Tamara McKinney at 18 World Cup victories. She and McKinney are also deadlocked with four World Championships medals, however Vonn leads in the color category with two gold ('09/Val d'Isere, France) and two silver ('07/Are, Sweden) to McKinney's one gold ('89/Vail, CO) and three bronze ('89/Vail, CO; '85/Bormio, Italy).
Vonn is also tied with Andrea Mead Lawrence as the only American women to win two gold medals at the World Championships. Lawrence captured two gold in 1952 when the Olympics also doubled as the World Championships.
With seven races before World Cup Finals Vonn leads the World Cup overall standings in her bid to become the first American women to win back-to-back World Cup overall titles.
Last season Vonn surpassed childhood hero Picabo Street and men's great Daron Rahlves as the most successful American downhiller. She is also leading the World Cup downhill points and is second to Riesch in slalom points with two SL races to go.
Cook, Richardson back
"Kaylin could have easily been in the top 15 today," said Hoedlmoser. "She was just outside the top 30 in the downhill and that cost her a good slalom starting position. Had the course conditions been better when she went, she easily could have been up there."
For Hoedlmoser, everything is pointed in the right direction for Saturday's downhill. Both Mancuso and Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA) have been fast all week in downhill training with Cook second in the final training run and 17th after the downhill portion Friday. Richardson, Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) and Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, VT) also have been inside the top 30 in training.
"The girls have all been fast this week, especially Stacey. She took her 9th in the downhill at World Championships and brought that confidence here. Today could have been a lot better, but we're looking forward to some fun tomorrow," said Hoedlmoser.
Universal Sports will air the super combined on their 24-hour TV network later today with coverage also available on demand at www.UniversalSports.com. Saturday's downhill will stream live online at 5 a.m. ET.
AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Tarvisio, Italy - Feb. 20, 2009
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse