Vonn wins 3rd straight World Cup downhill title

Published 6:15 pm Saturday, March 6, 2010

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland — Lindsey Vonn won her third straight downhill title Saturday and tied Bode Miller for the most career World Cup victories by an American at 32.

She defeated Johanna Schnarf of Italy by a mere 0.01 seconds in her first race since the Vancouver Olympics, where she won gold in the downhill. Vonn finished the Nationale downhill course in 1 minute, 35.26 seconds.

“It’s been a great season and I’m really happy with everything that’s happened,” Vonn said. “I think of all the titles, I am most proud of winning the Olympic downhill gold — that was the highlight of the season for me.”

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Vonn clinched the Crystal Globe for the downhill title by increasing her lead to 189 points over Maria Riesch of Germany with just one race left. Marianne Abderhalden of Switzerland was third, 0.38 seconds behind.

Vonn earned her sixth win in seven World Cup downhill races this season. She extended her lead in the overall World Cup standings to 197 points ahead of Riesch, who was sixth.

Anja Paerson of Sweden, who is third in the overall and downhill standings, broke off her run after an apparent problem with her goggles.

A dramatic change of conditions at the top of the course midway through the event allowed several slower skiers to post impressive times, including Schnarf and Abderhalden who celebrated their first World Cup podium finishes. Marusa Ferk of Slovenia was fourth, followed by Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, a surprise winner in the giant slalom at the Olympics.

Vonn started 16th in a field of 48 under poor visibility and an icy wind that forced organizers to cancel Friday’s super-combined race for safety reasons.

“It was a tough race out there,” Vonn said. “Sometimes there would be a headwind, sometimes a tail wind. It was snowing really hard, and there was a lot of new snow on the track.”

The International Ski Federation said it would not reschedule the event, prompting Vonn and the U.S. Ski Team to claim she had won the super-combined title.

However, only two events have been held this season and FIS rules stipulate that three races must be run, making it unclear whether the federation would officially hand Vonn the title.

Vonn already has an unbeatable lead in the super-G standings.

The final World Cup races will be held next weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“I’m going to keep things going through to finals and, hopefully, I can stay in the lead in the overall,” Vonn said.