Vails Vonn wins downhill title |

Vails Vonn wins downhill title

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
Lindsey Vonn soars down the mountain on her way to placing second in the women's FIS World Cup downhill ski race in Whistler, B.C., Canada on Friday, Feb. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
AP | Canadian Press

WHISTLER, British Columbia Before Lindsey Vonn moved to Vail, she didnt ski speed events.On Friday, more than a decade after she first got a taste of what its like to go fast, Vonn joined the ranks as one of Americas best speed skiers.With a second-place finish at a World Cup downhill in Whistler, British Columbia, Vonn secured the discipline title, becoming only the second American to do so. Picabo Street, Vonns childhood idol, won the title in 1995 and 1996.Its crazy to think back because I came from such a small hill Buck Hill (Minn.), which was 300 vertical feet, Vonn said in a teleconference Friday. Erich Sailer was my coach, and he told my dad that he felt sorry for him because he had a turtle for a daughter. I originally was pretty slow.When Vonn was 11, she moved to Colorado with her family to train with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.That got me going in downhill and speed events, Vonn said. They had a great program with Chip Woods, who was a former U.S. Ski Team coach.At 23, Vonn has nine career downhill wins, tied with Street and Daron Rahlves for most among Americans, and she has her first World Cup discipline title.Its amazing I won the trophy, Vonn said following the race. Its been a dream of mine since I was a kid to win. Its been a long time coming. The last two years I was really close injuries last year and mistakes the year before, so Im really happy with the way its finally done.Vonn nearly set the U.S. downhill victory mark Friday, finishing the 2010 Vancouver Olympics course in 1 minute, 45.31 seconds, just 0.01 seconds behind Nadia Styger, of Switzerland. American Julia Mancuso was third.I skied well most of the way down, … but I got a little late on a turn and pretty much lost the race there, Vonn said. It was a little disappointing because I was second by only 0.01, which is nothing, but its really awesome to secure the trophy today.With her finish, Vonn took a 64-point lead in the overall ahead of Austrian Nicole Hosp, who placed 15th. Five of the remaining nine races are speed events.Historically, it always comes down to the last couple of weeks (for the overall) unless I start winning every single speed race and the (two) combineds, Vonn said. I have to be really on my game in the speed events because (Hosp) going to be in the top three in the tech events.

Vonn knows that her move to Vail was essential to where she is today and said shes eternally grateful for the sacrifices her family made.My brothers and sisters gave up their lives, moved to Vail and had to make new friends, she said during the teleconference. Then, when I made the U.S. team, I was never home, and my family moved back to Minnesota and had to make friendships yet again. I realize how much theyve given up for me, and Im really thankful, and thats what makes me want to give back to younger kids.When Vonn first started skiing on the U.S. squad, Street took the younger skier under her wing.She always gave me pointers, and she always felt I was going to be the one to take her place, Vonn said. Shes been a big part of my career, especially in the 2006 Olympics in Torino. She was the first one in the hospital (when Vonn crashed) even before my mom or (husband) Tomas was there.On Friday, Street patched into the teleconference to congratulate Vonn.When asked what she saw in Vonn, Street gave some specifics.At a real young age, she would squeeze my hand and look me in the eye when I talked to her, Street said. That showed me she paid attention. … Second, I saw her ski, and technically she was super sound and had a love of the fall line that you cant teach somebody.While Street always believed in her, Vonn didnt realize she could win until she picked up her first career podium a third-place finish in the 2004 Cortina, Italy, downhill.That was the first time I really thought, I can do this, Vonn said.With a title as proof, Vonn can do it. But now, theres more to be done.Hopefully, if I keep working out and training hard, I can continue to progress and aim for a downhill and a super-G title. And the Olympic Games are coming up. And an overall title those are also big dreams Ive had, Vonn said. The overall is such a coveted award; it doesnt come easily. Im going to have to keep training hard, and hopefully the results will keep coming.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association contributed to this story.

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