CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy: American downhill queen Lindsey Vonn dominated overall World Cup leader Tina Maze to claim her 58th win in the series and first win of 2013 here yesterday.
Vonn, celebrating the 29th downhill win of her stunning World Cup career, clocked 1min 38.25sec with Slovenian Maze in second at 0.43sec.
American Leanne Smith finished third at 0.89sec to complete the podium, pushing France’s Marion Rolland down to fourth.
While Vonn, 28, boosts her lead in the downhill standings, Maze took another step toward her maiden overall title after main rival, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, did not finish.
“I’m not happy when other athletes are having troubles,” said Maze, who won her first ever World Cup super-G last week at Sankt Anton in Austria to become only the sixth woman to win races in all five alpine disciplines.
“It’s part of the sport, you want to compete against the best and I’m not happy if someone is not doing good.” After a first downhill podium at Cortina, Maze now has 1414 points and leads Hoefl-Riesch (744) by a massive 670 points.
The day, however, belonged to Vonn, the four-time World Cup champion who was only too glad to get back to winning ways.
She was hospitalized with an intestinal ailment early in the season before bouncing back to win all three races at Lake Louise in December, after which she took a month’s break after a fall at Val d’Isere.
Vonn recently admitted to suffering from depression for a number of years and her divorce was only recently finalized.
Doubts were raised when she could only finish sixth, behind compatriot Alice McKennis, at Sankt Anton last week.
But although virtually out of the running for a fifth overall title, she was visibly delighted at the finish.
“The last couple of races I’ve been seeing different numbers other than one next to my name,” she said.
“So I was kind of half-surprised to come down in the lead. It just feels good to be back on the podium, especially with my teammate Leanne, it’s a great day for the team.” Smith, one of several American alpine racers who have shown promise of late, set the early pace when she blitzed the 2.61 km long Olimpia delle Tofane course to finish over a second ahead of Swiss starter Fraenzi Aufdenblatten.
Having finished runner-up to Swiss Lara Gut at the Val d’Isere in mid-December, the 25-year-old was determined to reach the podium again.
“I was feeling confident after yesterday’s training run and also after my result in Val d’Isere,” said Smith.
“Every day you have to come out and give it your all. I was extremely nervous today, but I was the same in Val d’Isere, so that seems to be working.” Maze, starting with bib number 12, completed her run four tenths of a second faster and she looked assured of a podium when Hoefl-Riesch skied out after a bad landing and Cortina champion Daniel Merighetti finished way off the pace.
Vonn, however, then turned a risky run — that saw her come close to crashing out in mid-race before the corrected herself masterfully — into a winning performance at the finish.
“It’s been a slow process building my confidence, building my strength back up,” added the American, who now has 340 points in the downhill race with compatriot Stacey Cook second on 211.
“Sankt Anton was a good start, sixth place, and then today I said I wanted to be on the podium.
“Now I’m in great shape going into the rest of the season. There’s a lot of speed events left and the world championships (in March), so I’m in great shape now.”