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Vonn clinches Downhill title
BANSKO, Bulgaria – Double World Champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) added a new line to the U.S. Ski Team record books Saturday, becoming only the second American in history to win back-to-back World Cup downhill titles. Vonn tied for 12th on the day, but mathematically clinched the title with an insurmountable 111-point margin over Swiss racer Dominique Gisin.
Austrian Andrea Fischbacher won the race as Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) finished 10th. Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, VT), Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA) and Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) also finished in the points.
"This is a huge accomplishment. It's never easy to win a World Cup title, and it's even harder to defend one," said Vonn, who captured downhill gold at World Championships. "It was a difficult year, in terms of weather, for downhill. We had a few cancellations and we lost a race in Lake Louise, but I’m still really happy I was able to keep the title."
Vonn joins childhood hero and now good friend Picabo Street, who won the season-long title in 1995 and '96, as the only American (male or female) to win back-to-back crystal globes for downhill. She also retained a 336-point lead over Maria Riesch of Germany in the overall standings with seven races remaining.
"It's so rewarding to join Picabo. It really doesn't seem like all that long ago when I met her at a poster signing in Minnesota and since then I've always looked up to her," said Vonn. "It was pretty cool last season when I passed her downhill win record and now, we've both won two titles."
Vonn secured her first World Cup downhill title last season while competing on the 2010 Olympic course in Whistler, British Columbia. In a post race teleconference with media, Vonn was surprised on the call by Street, a hilarious meeting that was orchestrated by long-time U.S. Ski Team correspondent Paul Robbins, who passed away the next day.
"I was thinking about that today, because I finished second by one-hundredth and it felt strange to win the title without winning the race, but sometimes that's how it goes," said Vonn.
The difficult Bansko downhill track took its toll again, bouncing five racers into the "Did Not Finish" category. Vonn was leading at the top split before catching an edge in the middle and losing speed.
"This was a day for trying to ski solid without taking too much risk," said women's U.S. Alpine Ski Team Head Coach Jim Tracy. "The TV doesn't do this course justice – it's nasty and Lindsey did a good job staying with it to finish the race. She deserves the title."
Both Tracy and women's speed Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser also highlighted Mancuso, who was 29th in the downhill standings prior to Saturday's race. Only the top 25 ranked athletes earn a start at the March 9-15 World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden. Mancuso's 10th boosted her to 21st in the rankings.
"I'm really happy for Julia. This is her first top 10 in downhill this season and she earned a spot at the World Cup Finals," said Hoedlmoser. "It's been a frustrating year for her, but this is a great indication of how hard she's working to get it back."
Racing in Bansko concludes Sunday with a super G. Vonn is also in contention for the super G title as she sits 39 points behind Italy's Nadia Fanchini.
Universal Sports will air the downhill later today on their 24-hour TV network and also will carry on-demand coverage at www.UniversalSports.com with super G streaming live Sunday beginning at 5 a.m. ET.
"We took a look at the super G set and it's pretty straightforward," said Tracy. "There's a couple of sections where the girls are going to have to be on it, but for the most part, it's a ripper."
AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Bansko, Bulgaria - Feb. 28, 2009
1. Andrea Fischbacher, Austria, 1:45.81
2. Tina Maze, Slovenia, 1:46.07
3. Fabienne Suter, Switzerland, 1:46.20
4. Lara Gut, Switzerland, 1:46.43
5. Nadia Fanchini, Italy, 1:46.61
10. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 1:47.83
12T. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1:48.00
26. Chelsea Marshall, Pittsfield, VT, 1:50.34
28. Stacey Cook, Mammoth, CA, 1:50.43
29. Keely Kelleher, Big Sky, MT, 1:50.60
37. Kaylin Richarson, Edina, MN, 1:52.52
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14. March 192
photo Cheltenham jockey club
14. March 212
photo Cheltenham Racecourse