SCHLADMING, Austria – Lindsey Vonn says she’s running low on energy, but you sure couldn’t tell by watching her smoke another downhill course in Schladming Wednesday – the last of the 2011-2012 Audi FIS World Cup season.
The victory was her 12th of the season, and reinforced the downhill title – her fifth straight – that she secured weeks ago.
The American champion – who also already secured the ladies overall Cup title – crossed the finish line of the 2013 world championships course in 1 minute, 46.56 seconds, leaving everyone more than a second behind her except for Marion Rolland of France, who earned her first career World Cup podium in second place, 0.92 seconds back. Tina Maze made her only downhill podium of the season in third, 1.22 seconds back.
For Vonn, however, the work is never done. Notching 12 wins this season – breaking her 2009 record of 11 – securing her fourth overall title (the only American skier to ever do so) and earning her fifth straight downhill title is quite a feat but Vonn has another goal to reach. She is now up to 1908 points in the overall standings.
“I’m really trying hard to break Hermann Maier’s record,” referring to the Austrian icon who holds the World Cup’s season point record of 2,000 points. “I only have three races left this season. It was a huge step today.”
As temperatures climbed to T-shirt weather in Schladming, the snow became especially soft for the ladies race, which took place after the men’s (albeit on a different course) when the bright sun was at its strongest. Vonn started No. 22 and said the snow had broken down quite a bit.
“It was tough conditions, tough for later numbers to be fast,” she said. “I felt like the snow was definitely better than yesterday. Yesterday it was still raining in the morning, still soft. But it’s always difficult when conditions can change.”
Vonn won five of the eight downhill races this season, her worst result being fourth. She wraps up the season with 690 points in the discipline and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who only set out to get on one podium this season, ended up second in the standings with 400 points. The 21-year-old missed Wednesday’s downhill podium by 0.02 seconds to finish fourth, but more than met her season’s goals, racking up five podiums – three in downhill and two in super G – with the Final super G still remaining on Thursday. Elisabeth Goergl, ninth in Wednesday’s race, finished third in the downhill standings with 384 points. The 2011 world downhill and super G champion notched her first World Cup downhill victory this season in Bad Kleinkirchheim and also landed on the downhill podium in Lake Louise and Sochi.
Rolland was especially enthusiastic about her accomplishment with her first career podium and said now that she knows the taste of it, she’s hungry for more.
“This podium is a great achievement and reward for all the work that has been done, a great way to be paid back for all the effort,” she said. I’ve been fighting hard and this performance makes me really happy. To be on the podium is something really special. Once you’re there, you want to work even harder to get back there.”
Maze was also happy with her performance. Wednesday’s third place was her 10th podium of the season but first in downhill and she was pleased to know she could excel on the 2013 world championship course, although she guessed conditions might be harder and more wintery for next February’s event.
“It’s not a difficult downhill,” Maze said. “It’s nice to ski right now, I don’t know what will happen if the snow if the snow will get harder. It could be a difficult race.”
Thursday’s super G ladies Final in Schladming will be an exciting one. Vonn leads the SG standings with 413 points and could only be beat by Anna Fenninger who is second in the standings with 319 points. Another win would take Vonn beyond the 2,000 points and surpass Maier’s record.
by Shauna Farnell