TARVISIO, Italy (Mar. 5 – Ski Racing Magazine News Service) – For the second consecutive day, American Lindsey Vonn finished second in a World Cup race while securing the season title in that discipline. Yesterday it was the super combined. Today she did it in the downhill.
With only one downhill remaining on this season’s calendar, Vonn’s current lead of 143 points on overall leader, German Maria Riesch (sixth today) is insurmountable as Vonn takes her 11th career title and climbs 40 points closer Riesch in the overall race.
With five top-five finishes, Swede veteran Anja Parson has been close to the top all season. She finally made it to the apex of the World Cup podium today in Tarvisio, Italy in convincing fashion, winning the season’s penultimate downhill by nearly a second.
Paerson shook off the knee pain that caused her to pull out of last Sunday’s super G at her home race in Are to grab her 42nd career victory and her first of the season. And she did it with 0.73 second advantage on Vonn (1:27.64), who was the only contender within a second of the 29-year-old Swede to grab her fourth straight downhill title.
“It’s been a great weekend so far, clenching the super combined title yesterday and the downhill title today,” said Vonn, who also owns a 131-point lead in the super G standings. “I also have a chance to close things up tomorrow in the super G, so things are going really well. It was definitely a really good day and I’m happy with my run.”
Brand new downhill and super G world champion, Austrian Elizabeth Goergl earned her fifth World Cup podium of the season, 1.17 seconds back in third place.
Still feeling fast after taking her first win of the season in yesterday’s super combined, Slovenian Tina Maze was 1.23 seconds back in fourth place for her seventh top-ten finish of the season.
Behind French skier Ingrid Jacquemod in fifth place, Riesch was 1.31 seconds off the pace in sixth after making a costly mistakes in the middle of the course. It was only the second time Riesch missed a downhill podium this season. Riesch’s lead on Vonn in the overall standings, which last week reached 216 points, is now down to 136 (1616-1480) with seven races still to come.
After sliding into the pad at the back of the finish area, Riesch was obviously disappointed in the outcome, shaking her head and slamming her pole on the snow.
“I just saw that I’m eight hundredths back with this mistake, so I was frustrated in the first moment, but you can’t always have runs without mistakes,” Riesch told the Associated Press. “It’s just normal that one race is not perfect. This is not my favorite downhill track, it’s really, really flat and sixth place is not a really good result but it’s still OK.”
The snow and foggy conditions that canceled Thursday’s second training run cleared up yesterday for the super combined. A morning fog today also burned off by race time though not soon enough as organizers stuck with the lowered reserve start racers trained on as the storm began on Wednesday.
With her sixth career downhill victory, Paerson became the first woman not named Vonn or Riesch to win a World Cup downhill in the previous 15 races. But the win came at a cost as Paerson’s tender knee took a beating. In the finish area Paerson’s celebration was limited to shaking her head and rubbing her sore legs.
“It’s been kind of a struggle this season and I finally picked a run where I could (be) perfect,” Paerson told the AP. “Landing that jump in the middle of the course was really painful. I was a bit lucky that we didn’t ski the top part, so I could stay fit the entire run.”
Paerson remains ranked fourth in all time World Cup wins, two ahead of Vonn with 40 of her own.
Vonn’s impressive downhill title streak began in 2008. She has now collected 21 carer World Cup downhill victories, with three of those coming along with fourth additional podium placings this season. With one more downhill on this season’s schedule, Vonn currently holds a 600 to 457 lead on Riesch.
Though it will be an uphill battle, Vonn hasn’t closed the door on hopes of a fourth consecutive overall title and is looking to take advantage of her reduced pressure, underdog position.
“It’s definitely a long shot at this point and it’s still Maria’s title to lose but I’m chugging away and trying to win as many races as I can. I’m skiing with nothing to lose so it makes things easier for me,” said Vonn. “I just have to go out there and ski my race and try to win.”
Canadian Britt Janyk was the second fastest North American in ninth place, 1.74 seconds back to achieve her season high for the third time. U.S. skiers Julia Mancuso and Leanne Smith were right behind in 10h and 11th, respectively. It was Smith’s sixth career top-15 result. Laurenne Ross (23rd) and Stacey Cook (24th) also made the points as all five U.S. starters hit the top 25.
Though today’s pain-filled victory puts some sugar on top, Paerson is still undecided if she will return for a 14th season of World Cup racing next year. “Of course when you win you feel positive and everything is going your way, but it’s still a big decision,” she said. “If you race, you have to be dedicated every hour every day and I have to see if I still have the motivation.”
World Cup racing in Tarvisio concludes tomorrow with a super G.