Vail’s Vonn completes discipline sweep
SOELDEN, Austria- Lindsey Vonn used a blistering finish to win the season-opening World Cup giant slalom Saturday and become the fifth female skier to win a race in all five Alpine disciplines.
The three-time overall champion was fourth after the opening run before an impressive finish to win in a combined time of 2 minutes, 24.43 seconds.
Vonn is the second American skier to complete the discipline sweep after Bode Miller.
“I can’t believe this. This is a big dream coming true,” Vonn said. “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 Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was 0.40 behind in third.
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The discipline sweep has been achieved by Austria’s Petra Kronberger, Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg, Croatia’s Janica Kostelic and Sweden’s Anja Paerson.
“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 not to do something special.”
Overall World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch finished 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 has yet to win GS race. “There have been winners in Soelden that did not win much later in the season.”
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 has duplicated her switch to men’s skis for speed events with a switch in GS, using the same skis as world champion Ted Ligety. She said the equipment change plus offseason training was paying off. She 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.”
Federica Brignone of Italy took a commanding first leg lead, but she skied out early in her second run. World GS champion Tina Maze of Slovenia, who many consider a contender for the overall title, placed 23rd.
Rebensburg, who won here last year on her way to the discipline title, led Vonn by 0.26 after the opening leg but was still satisfied to take second.
“Reaching the podium in the first race is always a positive signal,” Rebensburg said.
A two-time gold medalist in speed events at the worlds, Goergl said she was helped by completing several training runs on the glacier last week.
Vonn’s teammate Julia Mancuso had two runs without obvious mistakes and finished 10th.
Vonn’s win was the first by an American female skier in a World Cup GS race since Julie Parisien won in Waterville Valley in 1991. And it was the first such victory on European soil since Tamara McKinney won in Zwiesel in 1984.
The season-opening World Cup weekend ends Sunday with a men’s giant slalom.