Vonn leads three Americans into top 10 in Italy
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn is giving her team a jolt.
Vonn finally had an error-free run and won a super-G Friday for her fifth victory of the season. She was joined in the top 10 by teammates Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley in fourth and Leanne Smith in a career-best eighth.
Vonn’s rival for the overall World Cup title, Maria Riesch, finished ninth but maintained the overall lead.
“It’s awesome,” Vonn said after stopping to embrace Smith. “All the girls on our team have the capability of being on the podium, and I think it’s just a matter of them gaining confidence and believing in themselves.”
In a memorable day for the U.S. team, World Cup rookie Laurenne Ross of Klamath Falls, Ore., was 19th and Stacey Cook of Mammoth, was 21st.
“It was a very fast set of the super-G,” said U.S. head coach Alex Hoedlmoser. “The girls were ready for it. We laid it out that it had to be full attack and that’s what they did. It was really cool to see how they charged.”
Vonn, who’s made several recoveries from near crashes in recent races, sped down the shortened Olympia delle Tofane course in 1 minute, 11.66 seconds.
“I had a good, clean run,” Vonn said. “In the past few races, I’ve been making mistakes. Today I found a happy balance, a happy medium, and I was able to ski solid and have a good day.”
Swedish standout Anja Paerson finished second, 0.43 seconds behind, to match her best result this season. Anna Fenninger of Austria was third in partly cloudy and uncharacteristically cold conditions for Cortina. The temperature was 10 degrees at the top of the course.
Mancuso made an error toward the end of her run and missed the podium by 0.13 seconds.
“In all my super-G races, I’ve made little mistakes,” Mancuso said. “So now it’s just a matter of when it all clicks, and at least the speed is there in between.”
Riesch lost 71 points to Vonn with the ninth-place finish and leads her by 125 points in the World Cup overall standings. Vonn holds a 131-point lead over Riesch in the super-G standings through three races.
Vonn earned her fourth career victory in Cortina, and she’ll be the favorite in Saturday’s downhill and another super-G on Sunday.
Smith, a 23-year-old from Conway, N.H., had never finished better than 15th in a World Cup race. She tore her knee ACL on this course in 2009 and missed the last world championships in Val d’Isere, France. She’s nearly assured of a spot when the U.S. team selects its roster Monday for next month’s worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
“The snow was awesome and I had a good plan going in with inspection with the coaches,” Smith said. “I just knew I had to go for it and lay it on the line, because there were no big tricks in there.”
Vonn got to know Smith well a few years ago when they spent a summer living at the U.S. team base in Park City, Utah.
“Before I moved to Vail, we were hanging out a lot,” Vonn said. “She’s really open-minded, I like that a lot. She always wants to learn more and she always wants to push herself and you can see it in her skiing – she’s always on the limit.
“Sometimes she’s making mistakes and she’s not always in there. But you can see it today, she has the speed to be right there. I think it’s just a matter of her figuring it out and being able to get that speed and not make as many mistakes.”