Courtesy of the U.S. Ski Team
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February 28, 2009 — BANSKO, Bulgaria – Double World Champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) added a new line to the U.S. Ski Team record books Saturday, becoming only the second American in history to win back-to-back World Cup downhill titles.
Vonn tied for 12th on the day, but mathematically clinched the title with an insurmountable 111-point margin over Swiss racer Dominique Gisin. Austrian Andrea Fischbacher won the race as Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) finished 10th. Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, VT), Stacey Cook (Mammoth, CA) and Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, MT) also finished in the points.
"This is a huge accomplishment. It's never easy to win a World Cup title, and it's even harder to defend one," said Vonn, who captured downhill gold at World Championships. "It was a difficult year, in terms of weather, for downhill. We had a few cancellations and we lost a race in Lake Louise, but I’m still really happy I was able to keep the title."
On the men's side, Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah, won the giant slalom on Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Saturday for the second year in row, putting him back into contention to defend his overall GS title (see full story below).
Fro the women, Ski Club Vail product Vonn joins childhood hero and now good friend Picabo Street, who won the season-long title in 1995 and '96, as the only American (male or female) to win back-to-back crystal globes for downhill. She also retained a 336-point lead over Maria Riesch of Germany in the overall standings with seven races remaining.
"It's so rewarding to join Picabo. It really doesn't seem like all that long ago when I met her at a poster signing in Minnesota and since then I've always looked up to her," said Vonn. "It was pretty cool last season when I passed her downhill win record and now, we've both won two titles."
Vonn secured her first World Cup downhill title last season while competing on the 2010 Olympic course in Whistler, British Columbia. In a post race teleconference with media, Vonn was surprised on the call by Street, a hilarious meeting that was orchestrated by long-time U.S. Ski Team correspondent Paul Robbins, who passed away the next day.
"I was thinking about that today, because I finished second by one-hundredth and it felt strange to win the title without winning the race, but sometimes that's how it goes," said Vonn.
The difficult Bansko downhill track took its toll again, bouncing five racers into the "Did Not Finish" category. Vonn was leading at the top split before catching an edge in the middle and losing speed.
"This was a day for trying to ski solid without taking too much risk," said women's U.S. Alpine Ski Team Head Coach Jim Tracy. "The TV doesn't do this course justice – it's nasty and Lindsey did a good job staying with it to finish the race. She deserves the title."
Both Tracy and women's speed Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser also highlighted Mancuso, who was 29th in the downhill standings prior to Saturday's race. Only the top 25 ranked athletes earn a start at the March 9-15 World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden. Mancuso's 10th boosted her to 21st in the rankings.
"I'm really happy for Julia. This is her first top 10 in downhill this season and she earned a spot at the World Cup Finals," said Hoedlmoser. "It's been a frustrating year for her, but this is a great indication of how hard she's working to get it back."
Racing in Bansko concludes Sunday with a super G. Vonn is also in contention for the super G title as she sits 39 points behind Italy's Nadia Fanchini.
Universal Sports will air the downhill later today on their 24-hour TV network and also will carry on-demand coverage at www.UniversalSports.com with super G streaming live Sunday beginning at 5 a.m. ET.
"We took a look at the super G set and it's pretty straightforward," said Tracy. "There's a couple of sections where the girls are going to have to be on it, but for the most part, it's a ripper."
Ligety nabs World Cup GS win, jumps back into contention to defend GS title
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia - Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) came from third place after the first run to win a World Cup giant slalom Saturday in Slovenia. Ligety out-skied Switzerland's Didier Cuche and Massimiliano Blardone of Italy, who were second and third, for the win.
The win makes it a back-to-back situation for Ligety, who also won in Kranjska Gora last year. In fact, the hill marks the place where Ligety truly burst into the racing elite. Longtime fans recall his Europa Cup slalom win on the Pokoren in 2004 following a pair of World Cups.
"This year has been tough, and to come to Kranjska Gora is always an awesome experience. It's been such a good hill for me for so long," Ligety said. "My coach set the second run and it was just how I like it. You know, I like those big sweeping turns. I had a couple of bobbles along the way, but I'm really happy."
For Ligety, who is coming off a World Championship bronze medal, it's the fourth win of his career and 15th time he's been on a World Cup podium. Though the win keeps Ligety in third for the season's discipline standings, Ligety said overcoming Cuche, who is 73 points ahead after Saturday's race would be a tall order.
"I'm still a long way off. It's going to be hard to make up so many points on Cuche. I'm happy with the day, but I'm not really figuring the red bib anymore," Ligety said.
Austrian Benjamin Raich sits in second in the giant slalom standings, just 21 points behind Cuche, making the race even tighter.
"In Sestriere, at that point when I went out in the second, I knew the crystal globe chances were gone. It was pretty disappointing. Then I let that go. We had a couple of race to go. At least I wanted to come away happy," Ligety said.
"After last week's performance, to step up and win a race is amazing," Men's Alpine Head Coach Sasha Rearick said. "Cuche is skiing really hot, so to go out and catch him took a lot of effort and a lot of risk."
Rearick said American coaches took the opportunity to set a course for Ligety that would give him the best shot at a win.
"We set the second run set really turny to try to give Ted an opportunity to shine at his skill, and he skied super."
Jitloff just misses finals
Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV) had qualified for the second run 18th, putting himself in a good position to move up and secure a spot at World Cup Finals. During the second run, he got turned around on a sharp break-over and spun backward on his skis for a few yards before stopping on the side of the hill and banging his hands on his head.
Coming off a career-best performance last weekend in Sestriere where he was fifth, Jitloff was in for the finals in 24th spot - 25 qualify. But, several racers moved ahead of Jitloff after Saturday, pushing him back to 28th.
"He had a good first run, very solid skiing. Second run he was absolutely hammering it. On the rolls the snow got really soft and he got spun around. He's skiing really well, just missed world cup finals, but makes the A Team for being top 30," Rearick said.
The men race again in Kranjska Gora with a slalom on Sunday. Fans can watch live on UniversalSports.com with the first run starting 3 a.m. ET.
AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
Men's Giant Slalom
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia - Feb. 28, 2009
1. Ted Ligety, Park City, UT, 2:19.92
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2:20.11
3. Massimilliano Blardone, Italy, 2:20.26
4. Romed Baumann, Austria, 2:20.55
5. Steve Missillier, France, 2:20.66
DNF2 - Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV)
DNQ - Jake Zamansky (Park City, UT)
DNF1 - Cody Marshall (Pittsfield, VT)
Bansko, Bulgaria - Feb. 28, 2009
1. Andrea Fischbacher, Austria, 1:45.81
2. Tina Maze, Slovenia, 1:46.07
3. Fabienne Suter, Switzerland, 1:46.20
4. Lara Gut, Switzerland, 1:46.43
5. Nadia Fanchini, Italy, 1:46.61
10. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 1:47.83
12T. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1:48.00
26. Chelsea Marshall, Pittsfield, VT, 1:50.34
28. Stacey Cook, Mammoth, CA, 1:50.43
29. Keely Kelleher, Big Sky, MT, 1:50.60
37. Kaylin Richarson, Edina, MN, 1:52.52
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