Vail's Vonn surges into overall lead with fourth-place finish in World Cup Finals downhill

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMarch 16, 2011
Vail's Lindsey Vonn finished fourth in the World Cup Finals downhill in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, today to vault into the lead for her fourth straight overall title, but the big question is whether she gained enough points on German rival Maria Riesch.

Riesch finished a surprising 17th on the brutal downhill course, which was riddled with bumps and holes after a very warm week in the Swiss Alps. That put her out of the points because only the top 15 score at the World Cup Finals. Riesch came in leading Vonn by 23 points and now trails 1,705 to 1,678.
But there's only one more speed event in the season, Thursday's super G, and that's where Vonn has had a slight edge on Riesch this season. Vonn has been shaky in the other two remaining races, slalom and giant slalom, meaning the German could overtake her again over the weekend.

"I'm proud to be in the finals and still be in the hunt considering I was down 200 points only a few weeks ago," Vonn said. "No matter what happens this has been one of the most exciting seasons and I'm really happy with the way I skied. We'll see how this week goes and who comes out on top."

Vonn really needed to pick up the 100 points her U.S. teammate Julia Mancuso scored with today's win – her first downhill victory in four years. Instead, Vonn earned 50 points for finishing fourth.

Following a super combined in Are, Sweden, on Feb. 25, Vonn was 216 points behind Riesch in the overall chase. Now Vonn has steadily clawed her way back into the lead and Riesch appears to be fading down the stretch.

The question is whether that trend will continue in Thursday's super G and whether Vonn can pick up just enough points in GS and slalom over the weekend. Clearly, it will come down to the wire.

"Unfortunately, I made a mistake at the top and I think it cost me quite a bit of time," Vonn said. "I was really happy with my skiing on the bottom because I've had trouble in that section for both the training runs. I finally executed today and made up some time. Unfortunately not enough time, but fourth place is a great result. It was another exciting day in the hunt for the overall."

Four straight overall titles would be an American record, surpassing the mark currently held by Vonn and shared with Phil Mahre during his remarkable run in the early 1980s.

Mancuso says her podium run isn't over.

"My goal for finals was to podium in every event - so one down and three to go," the Squaw Valley skier said, adding she's also racing for victims of Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

"I worked really close with a Japanese skier the last four years," Mancuso said. "She's helped me go to the Olympics. She emailed a week ago asking to give back and help. I've pledged to give half of my winnings today and I hope other people can jump on board."

The Olympic gold medalist from 2006 has started a website called

Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals
Lenzerheide, Switzerland – March 16. 2011

1. Julia Mancuso, Squaw Valley, CA, 1:27.50
2. Lara Gut, Switzerland, 1:28.31
3. Elisabeth Goergl, Austria, 1:28.65
4. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1:28.88
9. Stacey Cook, Mammoth Mountain, CO, 1:29.75
16. Leanne Smith, Conway, NH, 1:30.62

World Cup Final Downhill Standings

1. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 657
2. Maria Riesch, Germany, 457
3. Julia Mancuso, Squaw Valley, CA, 367
Current World Cup Overall Standings
1. Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 1,705
2. Maria Riesch, Germany, 1,678
3. Tina Maze, Slovenia, 1,039

Cuche wins fourth downhill title

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland – Under difficult light conditions Swiss ski racing veteran Didier Cuche earned his fourth career World Cup downhill title today at the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide.

He finished fourth in the race behind winner Adrien Theaux of France, yet jumped to second all-time for men's downhill titles behind Austrian skiing legend Franz Klammer.

The only American starter, Ted Ligety, of Park City, Utah, was 19th and will gun for the third giant slalom title of his career on Friday with a 77 point advantage on Cyprien Richard of France going into the race.

Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals
Lenzerheide, Switzerland – March 16. 2011

1. Adrien Theaux, France, 1:22.94
2. Joachim Puchner, Austria, 1:22.95
3. Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 1:23.10
19. Ted Ligety, Park City, UT, 1:25.07

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