With nerves shaking, Vonn wins
BEAVER CREEK – It simply isn’t as easy as Lindsey Vonn is making it look these days.
Vonn rang up victory No. 46 Wednesday at the women’s Birds of Prey super-G, the first time ladies took to the course. It’s her fourth win in a row on the World Cup tour and fifth in six starts this season.
Yet, Vonn, who wins like she’s a cyborg, is indeed human.
“I was so nervous,” Vonn said. “I think yesterday I was still really relaxed. This morning, I woke up and was really anxious, excited, nervous. My stomach was in a knot all day. It still is. I still will not be relaxed until the last racer has crossed the finish line. In the start, I was probably the most nervous I’ve every been.”
Battling back a severe case of nerves because this was the first time Vonn had raced on home snow, having trained during her formative years with then-Ski Club Vail, she finished in 1 minute, 10.68 seconds, 0.37 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Fabienne Suter. Austria’s Anna Fenninger took third.
“I just tried to do my best to keep it together,” Vonn said. “It wasn’t my best run. I almost went off course a couple of times. I really charged on the bottom to make up some time. This. for me. is probably one of the best races of my career, getting a chance to win at home with the home crowd here is more than I could have expected.”
Von , racing 17th, charged out of the start and attacked and it nearly cost her the race. She was behind at the first interval went back into green numbers in the second, fell behind again at the third and then crushed the bottom of the course for the cherished win.
Her goal was to “ski like a guy” on the venue, which has hosted men’s World Cup races since 1997. Wednesday’s super-G was moved here from Val d’Isere, France, because of a lack of snow there, so the ladies were racing at Beaver Creek for the first time.
“I watched the men’s race, the super-G here last week. They’re just so dynamic,” Vonn said. “They take it down the fall line. That’s what I tried to do. I think I did that on the bottom, but definitely was going too straight in a couple of parts. I almost missed a couple of gates. I was trying to be dynamic, trying to push the line, trying to just throw it down the hill.”
Vonn is the first American to win four World Cup races in a row – male or female. Bode Miller had the hat trick in 2004. Tamara McKinney, who won gold at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail in 1989, was the last female with three in a row in 1983.
Although it is still early in the season, Vonn is racking up the World Cup points. She’s 2-for-2 in super-G for 200 points in that discipline, 60 ahead of Fenninger. In the overall, Vonn has 522 points already and leads Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, who’s second, by 336 points.
What’s more, Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who nipped Vonn for last year’s overall crown, 1728-1725, is struggling so far this year in seventh with 191 points
Yet despite having every reason for having confidence, Vonn felt a ton of pressure coming into a home race.
“When I get too nervous, my muscles start to get really tight and I’m not just as coordinated, I’m not as quick and I felt it slowly happening,” Vonn said. “My muscles get tighter and tighter. I just try to stay loose. I did some (agility exercises) in the lodge. I tried to stay quick as much as I could. It just comes down to deep breathing and finding that zone when I’m in the start. It doesn’t matter how nervous I am. If I can calm myself down in the start, then I’ll be OK. I wasn’t quite able to do that.
“… I wanted to win at home so badly. I wanted to win on a men’s course. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could win here no matter what, under any circumstances. There are just so many reasons why today is special. I’m so proud to have won in front of my friends and family and the Vail community.”
Oh, yes …
Despite just about everyone’s focus on Vonn, there was there rest of the field Wednesday.
Suter wore the No. 12 bib, and zipped to the hot seat with a time of 1:11.05. With her background in super-G and giant slalom, she was fine without regular training runs and a mere inspection.
“I had a good feeling on the steep part,” she said. “I think that’s a little more my part, but you have to take a lot of speed in the flat part and just ski very fine, not too hard. … Second place is always good for me at a World Cup race.”
Fenninger earned her fifth World Cup podium. She was second up in the Lake Louise, Alberta, super-G, and after Vonn blitzed the field in downhill in Canada, she was fine with being 0.41 seconds behind the American.
“It’s good for the women’s sport, so Lindsey is not uncatchable,” Fenninger said. “Maybe the next time, we can (get) closer and closer and beat her.”
Birds of Prey 2011 concludes with men’s slalom at 9:30 a.m. today.