Vonn builds confidence with 3rd in the French Alps

Samuel Petrequin
The Associated Press
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

VAL D’ISERE, France – Lindsey Vonn capped a successful weekend with a third-place finish in a super-G that helped her to reclaim the sole lead of the overall World Cup standings barely two months before the Vancouver Olympics.

Following her victory in Friday’s super combined, Vonn made mistakes in the upper part of the Oreiller-Killy course on Sunday, but finished strong to gain a spot on the podium. Franzi Aufdenblatten posted her first World Cup victory, leading Nadia Styger to a 1-2 Swiss finish with Vonn 0.26 seconds off the pace.

“Every race is important, especially for the overall, and for myself for building confidence for Vancouver,” said Vonn, who has yet to win an Olympic medal.

Among other American skiers, former Val d’Isere downhill winner Julia Mancuso finished 15th, while Alice McKennis, a native of New Castle, was 22nd. McKennis has now scored World Cup points in three of the five races in her career and is a contender for a spot in the U.S. Olympic Team in both super-G and downhill.

After a mediocre weekend of technical events last week in Are, Sweden, where she lost the World Cup lead to rival and friend Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn bounced back in Val d’Isere. Vonn, 25, has had success in this French Alps resort, winning the super-G and the downhill at the world championships earlier this year.

Vonn has been on the podium in every discipline this season except in giant slalom and now has 581 points in the overall standings to lead Riesch by 50 points. Kathrin Zettel of Austria is third with 384 points.

Following her victory in the super combined, Vonn was tied for first with Riesch, who underperformed in the super-G, lagging well behind in 21st place, 2.02 seconds behind Aufdenblatten.

“It’s not looking too bad,” Vonn said of her overall lead. “It doesn’t really matter at this point. We still have a lot of races left, but I’m happy to have taken some points for the super-G standings.”

Vonn also leads the super-G standings with 140 points, 16 more than Elisabeth Goergl of Austria and 24 in front of Styger.

Riesch had to start for a second time due to Anja Paerson of Sweden crashing just before the German began her run. Paerson finished in the safety net but escaped with just abdominal pain.

The race was also interrupted for about 15 minutes when Marie Marchand-Arvier of France fell heavily and was evacuated down the slope on a sled with suspected cranial trauma. The super-G silver medalist at the world championships earlier this year was expected to undergo a scan later Sunday.

Vonn, a two-time overall World Cup champion, was happy to have avoided a fall.

“Unfortunately we had a couple of more injuries today, so I’m happy I made it to the finish,” she said, adding that she might have chosen the wrong skis in her attempt to post a 26th career win.

“On the top, I missed the timing on a couple of gates. I just never really found my rhythm,” she said. “On the bottom, I thought I skied better but I wasn’t myself. … It wasn’t like I normally do it. Maybe it was a mistake to take the longer skis because the terrain it made it really tight.”

Vonn had dominated the two downhill training sessions but her quest for a third consecutive downhill victory was put on hold Saturday when local organizers were forced to cancel the downhill because of bad weather.

“I was really disappointed about yesterday. I feel really comfortable on this course and obviously the downhill in the super-combined went really well,” Vonn said. “But no one can control that, it’s the weather. Hopefully we can make up the downhill at a later point, but you never know.”

Aufdenblatten upset the favorites to finish in 1 minute, 26.43 seconds, 0.23 seconds ahead of Styger. The 28-year-old Aufdenblatten’s previous best World Cup result was finishing third twice in downhill races.

“Somebody told me that it happened after more than 200 races,” Aufdenblatten said. “It was the ultimate goal of my career. I really wanted to be the fastest one day.”

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