Courtesy of the U.S. Ski Team
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February 27, 2009 — BANSKO, Bulgaria – World Champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) is one race closer to becoming only the second woman in U.S. history to win back-to-back World Cup downhill titles.
Vonn tied for third Friday in a tricky downhill to take a commanding 118-point lead in the title chase as Fabienne Suter of Switzerland notched her first World Cup downhill win in Bansko.
Vonn also extended her lead in the overall standings to 346 points over Maria Riesch of Germany, who finished 18th. No American woman has ever won consecutive World Cup overall titles. Picabo Street, Vonn's childhood hero, won the World Cup downhill title in both 1995 and 1996.
"This hill doesn't let up on you, so to be able to get a podium and some more points is really nice," said Vonn, who was greeted in Bansko by hundreds of people in the new Lindsey Vonn Red Bull fan club.
"It's always interesting to come to a new venue and even though the course is really tough on you. The people here have been awesome. Hopefully, I can keep things going for them tomorrow."
Friday's race, only the fifth downhill of the season, was a make-up from the weather scrapped December event in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It was Vonn's sixth consecutive World Cup podium finish and the 44th of her young career.
"This is the most difficult downhill we've ever seen," said U.S. Ski Team women's Speed Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "It's icy, incredibly bumpy and extremely technical with sharp turn after turn. Nobody makes this hill look good on skis."
During the final training run, Vonn lost her balance on a bumpy traverse in the middle section of the course, lost a ski and slid off course. The crash left her sore and worried about skiing the bottom, most technical portion of the hill.
"I was a little bit nervous today because of my crash yesterday," said Vonn, racing in a new black and green Spyder speed suit. "It was a tough fall. My back and behind are a little bit sore and it was a fight for me through the bottom part, especially since I didn't get to ski it yesterday."
Suter was the only racer to master a hard right boot turn at in the top section and took that momentum through the bottom to win in 1:45.68, a full 1.15 seconds over Austria's Andrea Fischbacher. Despite the sore back and a splinted right thumb, Vonn put down a solid time of 1:46.92, tying Nadia Fanchini of Italy for third.
Dominique Gisin of Switzerland and Anja Paerson of Sweden, the only other two racers feasibly in the downhill title chase were bounced off line by the unforgiving track and were among nine racers who failed to finish.
"It's looking pretty good for the downhill title and I'm feeling confident about where I am with the overall, but I'm not about to let up," said Vonn, who also has a shot at the super G title. "Anything can happen in ski racing, that's what makes it so exciting."
"Lindsey put herself in a sweet position to defend her downhill title and she added some really good points to her overall lead. Everything went her way with Gisin and Paerson going out," said Hoedlmoser. "I don't expect those girls to be able to do anything here tomorrow either, this hill is just that challenging."
Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) produced a solid run through tricky light conditions to finish 13th, while Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA) also finished in the points, tying Gina Stechert of Germany for 28th. Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, VT), Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) and Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN) finished just outside the top 30.
"Julia ran in probably the worst visibility conditions of the day and skied really well, probably one of the best runs," said Hoedlmoser. "I'm pretty psyched with the way she skied, it was really dark and she didn’t hold back."
Bansko will another downhill Saturday and a super G on Sunday, the final speed races prior to the March 3-15 World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden. Bulgaria was last featured on the World Cup schedule in the 1981 and 1984 seasons when men's slalom and giant slalom races were held at Borovets.
Universal Sports will have coverage of Friday's downhill later today on their 24-hour TV network along with live streaming of the races throughout the weekend at www.UniversalSports.com.
AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
Bansko, Bulgaria - Feb. 27, 2009
1. Fabienne Suter, Switzerland, 1:45.68
2. Andrea Fischbacher, Austria, 1:46.83
3. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1:46.92
3. Nadia Fanchini, Italy, 1:46.92
5. Lara Gut, Switzerland, 1:47.10
13. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 1:48.60
28. Stacey Cook, Mammoth, CA, 1:51.33
31. Chelsea Marshall, Pittsfield, VT, 1:52.02
32. Keely Kelleher, Big Sky, MT, 1:52.45
34. Kaylin Richardson, Edina, MN, 1:53.60
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