Garmisch downhill marks Lindsey Vonn's 50th Cup victory

04 February 2012 11:40

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – It takes a lot to make Lindsey Vonn cry, even when the emotion stems from joy. With all of the success and victories she’s had in her ski career, Saturday marked one of the occasions that brought the American champion to tears as she notched the big 5-0 … her 50th victory on the World Cup. 

“I’m at a loss for words. I’m trying not to get really emotional; I already cried once,” Vonn said after the race, in which she crossed the finish line of the challenging Kandahar downhill course in 1 minute, 44.86 seconds, gaining  the most speed on the lower half of the track after dropping behind by more than a half a second on the second split. “I mean, Alberto Tomba has 50 wins and he’s one of the best skiers of all time. I don’t see myself that way. But to know I’ve accomplished that … It’s just so amazing.”

The sun appeared in the morning in Garmisch, casting a bright light on the sparkling white slope under the rocky Kandahar backdrop as temperatures plunged to -16 degrees and some wispy clouds rolled in for the race start.

Racing in just her third World Cup downhill since returning after multiple knee injuries, Switzerland’s Nadja Kamer set the pace Saturday wearing bib No. 3. Vonn was the only athlete to usurp her time by 0.41 seconds as Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather earned her second straight downhill podium, taking third, 0.79 back.

The Kandahar was fast and hard on Saturday, bumpier than both training days and skiers rattled dramatically over the traverse in the middle of the course and Vonn actually slid onto her side around one gate but made one of her famous recoveries to reel the speed back and accelerate. 

“That wasn’t part of the plan,” she joked. “I got a little bit rocked from the bumps. I lost my inside ski and went on my hip. But from that point on, I made up some time.”

The only other women in World Cup history to score more than 50 wins on the World Cup are Vreni Scheider with 55 and Moser-Proell with 62. Vonn was vying for her 50th win last weekend in St. Moritz, where she notched wins No. 48 and 49 in the first super-combined race and then the downhill but dropped 0.03 seconds behind Maria Hoefl-Riesch in the second super-combi. She said it was meant to be, as her sister Laura and her father were in Garmisch to witness her big victory and to celebrate with her.

“I was trying to figure out why I didn’t win on Sunday but I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Vonn said. “It’s wonderful to get it here in Garmisch. My sister’s here … my dad’s here … I needed my family with me.”

Vonn, who walked out of the post-race press conference holding her sister in a playful headlock, remarked on Kamer’s speed Saturday, saying the Swiss racer “must have had rockets on her feet.” Kamer herself seemed pleasantly shocked at her snappy come back.

The 25-year-old had just three other Cup podiums to her name before Saturday and injured her left knee in a crash in Are last February. She only returned to the World Cup last month in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where she didn’t finish within points-scoring range (36th in the DH and 31 in super-G) but by last weekend’s downhill in St. Moritz she was back to 12th place. Now she is back on top, with only Vonn ahead of her.

“I think I [had] a fast ski at the top. The flat is also my best part. I’m just lucky,” Kamer said. “It was difficult to come back, because I have three injuries in my left knee. It wasn’t easy, but now I feel better every day. In second place … it’s unbelievable for me.”

Weirather, who is also charging into a comeback season in amazing form, notching the first podium of her Cup career right away in Lake Louise, then proceeding to finish top 10 in every ensuing downhill save the Cortina race, in which she skied off-course. Saturday marked her second podium in one week, and on a hill that was brand new to her and not exactly suited to her skiing style.

“I don’t like when it’s bumpy. I always ski with feeling and I don’t put a lot of pressure on my skis, but here it is really what you have to do,” Weirather said. “I thought it’s going to be tough for me, but I really focused on that –  I have always a lot of pressure on my skis – and it worked well.”

Garmisch-Partenkirchen native Maria Hoefl-Riesch was clearly the most popular athlete racing on Saturday, as a large part of the stadium was filled with the lavender flags of her fan club. The German finished just shy of the podium, taking four place, 0.99 seconds out.

“It was a good race for me, unfortunately I finished just next to the podium not on the podium, but it’s great to ski at home,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “All my family and many friends are here. I’m living in Kitzbuhel now, so I’m always happy to come back here.”

Several other racers found speed on the bumpy, technical course, but not enough for the podium. Italian Daniela Merighetti proved fast once again, taking fifth, 1.05 seconds back while Elisbeth Goergl, who crossed the finish line to “You’re a Hero” – the song she sang for the 2011 world championships in which she scored two gold medals in DH and SG on this very slope – ended up sixth, 1.25 seconds back. France’s Aurelie Revillet and Marie Marchand-Arvier notched solid results in seventh (1.29) and eighth (1.51), respectively, as Americans Stacey Cook and Laurenne Ross took ninth and 10th, on each other’s heels, 1.62 and 1.63 behind the winning time.

Go here for video interviews with Vonn, Kamer and Weirather.

Go here for race action highlights

By Shauna Farnell

Go here for full race results.