Vonn charges to victory in Val d'Isere

18 December 2010 11:23

VAL D’ISERE, France – While several of Saturday’s favorites were unexpectedly slowed by the new snow, Lindsey Vonn kept her tradition of success alive at Val d’Isere, winning the 2010 downhill with the sun shining and fresh snow glistening in the freezing cold.

Since 2005, Vonn has never finished worse than fourth in Val d’Isere and Saturday’s victory was her fourth in downhill, including her world championship win on Solaise course in 2009.

“I love Val d’Isere,” Vonn said after the race. “I’ve always had a good feeling here and it’s great to have another victory.”

She charged to the win in 1 minute, 51.42 seconds as Switzerland speed specialist Nadja Kamer came in 0.68 seconds back for second place and Lara Gut, who, after taking last year off with injury, landed her first podium since her world championship silver medals (here in Val d’Isere) in 2009. She finished 0.80 seconds back for third. (Watch a video of Vonn, Kamer and Gut after the race).

Right after she took the lead at the first split, Vonn went wide around one of the sweeping turns, dropping speed and falling behind. In the middle of the course, however, she regained the lead and gathered speed through the rest of the course, carrying it down the steeps and across the finish line.

“I made a big mistake on the top but thankfully I was able to make up the time,” Vonn said. “I skied well in the middle of the course in the training runs. I knew I could possibly make up some time there today. I wasn’t sure it would be enough for the win. When I got to the finish, I saw it was a good time but I thought for sure Maria would beat me.”

Vonn wore bib No. 20 Saturday and Maria Riesch, who won the first two downhill races of the season in Lake Louise (severing Vonn’s multi-year streak of victories there), came down the course wearing bib No. 22. She ended up 24th, her worst finish in downhill in three years. She said she was somewhat shocked to see her slow finish because she’d felt she’d had a decent run.

“Actually I had no mistakes. It was a solid run – not perfect – but I pretty much was on a good line,” she said. “I had no problems. I was just slow.”

She said she would have to analyze the video of her race later in the afternoon but felt the snow conditions played a part in her result.

“The new snow was a big challenge for the wax, the service men and for me,” she said. “I think I can show my abilities more when there’s hard snow. I can push more. The conditions today are not my favorite. I like the ice more, like it was in Lake Louise. This was a little soft because of the new snow. But if you want to be a world-class skier you have to ski fast in every kind of snow.”

Saturday’s result closes some of the gap between Riesch and Vonn in the overall standings. Riesch still leads with 533 points but Vonn’s victory ramps her tally up to 481.

Italian Johanna Schnarf set the bar early on Saturday wearing bib No. 1. She blazed down the course and led the race for the next 10 racers until unseated in the leader’s box by Elisabeth Goergl. Goergl ended up finishing fourth, 0.96 seconds off the win, as Schnarf tied France’s Ingrid Jacquemod for fifth, 1.19 back.

“At the time, I felt really slow. It feels slow to ski,” Schnarf said. “Today it’s really important to stay in the line.”

Kamer, who landed her first two podiums on the World Cup last season – both in downhill (third in Cortina d’Ampezzo and second in Haus im Ennstal) – seconds this.

“In my ski race, I think I’m not really fast,” she said. “So I am surprised to see my time.”

Gut, however, said she had the opposite sensation in her run.

“Everyone was saying it was slow but the feeling was faster,” she said. “I think it was one of the first times that the race was the same as it was in training. When you’re doing the training runs, it’s slower, then you come in the race and it’s like, oh my God, it’s so fast. But today it was the same [as in] training, even if the snow was softer.” (See a video of Gut answering a question about being suspended and if it helped motivate her performance)

Besides Jacquemod’s fifth, the day was a bit of a bust for the French team. Little known Margot Bailet had the next best finish, notching her best career World Cup result in 17th, but Marie Marchand-Arvier, who had hoped to podium, was 25th and France’s other speed favorites, Aurelie Revillet and Marion Rolland, finished out of the points, in 32nd and 33rd, respectively.

“I’m disappointed for sure, because we are in France and I wanted to make a good race at home,” Rolland said. “I don’t know what to do with this snow condition today. It’s the problem here, it seems you never make a big mistake and you ski good and you go to the finish line and you see your time and you say, ‘Oh.’ When you think you make a good downhill, it’s not always the best time and when you make more mistakes sometimes you are faster.”

Racing in Val d’Isere continues Sunday with super-combined.

Click here for full results from Saturday's downhill.

by Shauna Farnell/farnell@fisski.com