Vonn wins downhill, takes overall lead
SESTRIERE, Italy Lindsey Vonn joined Picabo Street and Daron Rahlves as the most successful American downhill skiers. Among current competitors, she has no equal.Vonn blew away the field Saturday for her fourth win in seven downhills this season. It was the ninth downhill victory of her career, matching the mark of Street and Rahlves.”Lindsey is pretty much unbeatable now,” U.S. downhill coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. “The only thing that could have beaten her here was herself.”Using a much straighter line than any other skier, Vonn covered the 1.84-mile Kandahar Banchetta course in 1 minute, 38.86 seconds. The race announcer yelled, “She’s a speed train!” as Vonn posted one split time faster than another.”I took some chances going into the forest, there’s a couple turns in there and I definitely went a little straighter,” Vonn said. “But I was out of my tuck and just being clean and solid but definitely carrying speed down the fall line.”Vonn returned to the top of the overall World Cup standings, three points ahead of Nicole Hosp, who finished 23rd.With Bode Miller in front in the men’s overall standings, this is the first time Americans have led both the men’s and women’s ranks since Tamara McKinney and Phil Mahre won overall titles in 1983.On a clear and sunny day at the site of the 2006 Torino Olympics, Vonn was followed by Canada’s Kelly Vanderbeek, who was 0.62 behind, and Italy’s Nadia Fanchini, 0.77 back.Vanderbeek was only a couple hundredths of a second behind Vonn at the course’s midpoint, but lost time on the bottom section.”She’s really impressive in downhill right now,” Vanderbeek said. “She just has a feel and touch.”At 23, Vonn has 12 victories overall in her career and is approaching McKinney’s U.S. record of 18 wins in all disciplines.”That’s something I’m looking at a little bit,” Vonn said. “But it’s not so much about records as just trying to ski my best all the time, which means trying to win all the time. I’m still really young, so I definitely have a lot of time to break more records.”Vanderbeek extended the Canadian team’s streak of having at least one skier on the podium at every speed weekend this season, along with Britt Janyk and Emily Brydon.”If one of us doesn’t do it, somebody else steps up,” Vanderbeek said.Fanchini was cleared to race again a month ago after being sidelined in September for an irregular heart beat.”I can’t believe it. I’m only at 50 percent,” she said, as she hugged older sister and fellow racer Elena Fanchini.”I’m unbelievable happy for her. After she was sidelined, she approached depression,” Elena said.The Kandahar course was used for the men’s downhill at the Turin Games, while the women raced in nearby San Sicario.Vonn said it doesn’t matter which course she races on.”I’ve been doing the same thing pretty much every race no matter what hill it is, which is just skiing solid and clean and trying not to make mistakes,” Vonn said.Austrian veteran Renate Goetschl finished tied for fourth with Nadia Styger of Switzerland with 1:39.71.In the downhill standings, Vonn leads Goetschl by 575-323. She could wrap up the downhill title in the next race in Vancouver, British Columbia, this month.Another American, Chelsea Marshall, finished eighth in 1:40.03 for the best result of her career by far. In her three previous World Cup races, Marshall had not placed higher than 34th.”It was a little bumpy, but Lindsey radioed up a good course report and my coaches gave me a good report, so I could go for it,” Marshall said.Julia Mancuso lost control at the beginning of her run and nearly fell, raising her right ski high to regain her balance. She finished 22nd.”I don’t really know what happened. It happened too fast,” Mancuso said. “I hit a bump and it jacked my ski.”Mancuso won four races last season but has struggled this season with no victories.”I’m just trying to figure out my equipment,” Mancuso said. “I’ve just been having a hard time finding my skis. They’re just a little more difficult to turn and it’s difficult figuring out what works.”
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