Lake Louise (AB), Canada – American ski racer Lindsey Vonn confirmed that she’s fully recovered from knee surgery by winning a World Cup downhill race in Lake Louise on Saturday on her first weekend back in the starting gate.
Vonn’s victory on Saturday, her 60th, capped a first-ever U.S. Ski Team podium sweep. Early-running Stacey Cook, of Mammoth Mountain, Calif., took the lead and held it until Vonn bumped her into second. Squaw Valley’s Julia Mancuso rounded out the podium in third. It was the best finish in two seasons for all three athletes.
“Great start for the ladies in Lake Louise yesterday and what a performance today!” exclaimed Patrick Riml, U.S. Ski Team Alpine Director. “They got some confidence from yesterday’s results and skied incredible today. Sweeping the podium for the first time in U.S. skiing history is amazing. Kudos to the athletes for an unbelievable job on and off the hill and to the staff for providing top preparation and training for the athletes!”
Riml was referring to Friday’s Downhill #1 at Lake Louise, won by Tina Maze of Slovenia. Laurenne Ross, of Bend, Ore., started fourth and held the lead until Austria’s Anna Fenninger knocked her off the top spot. She finished fourth, her best World Cup finish in two seasons, while Mancuso was seventh, Vonn eighth and Cook ninth.
On Saturday, however, the U.S. ladies stormed out of the starting gate to cover the podium.
Out of her 60 career World Cup wins, 15 of Vonn’s first places have come in Lake Louise. Vonn looked fast and strong on Saturday, keeping her speed up throughout the run and never losing the lead. When she crossed through the finish and looked up at the time, she let out a scream of excitement, thrilled to be back in action.
“Every day has gotten better here,” Vonn said in the finish. “Today I went a little bit more aggressive than I did yesterday and took some more chances. I’m finally feeling confident going fast again.”
It was the first ever all-American podium in alpine World Cup ski racing. It also marked four Americans in the top ten, Ross in sixth.
“It’s cool because both of the girls on the podium with me are my age. We’re all the same age—born in ’84—and we’re veterans of the World Cup,” said Mancuso. “We’ve all been working very hard and I’ve grown up with both of them. It’s an awesome day!”
“I always thought this was something possible with our team,” Cook asserted. “I really wanted to be a part of it when it happened. It’s a good day to step up. I’m so excited for Lindsey too. It’s a cool day.”
The rest of the Americans had to deal with a dark, snowy course, but had good results. Also coming back from multiple knee surgeries, Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) took 18th. Jackie Wiles (Aurora, Ore.) 37th and Katie Ryan (Aspen, Colo.) 46th. Julia Ford (Plymouth, N.H.) did not finish.
As if to prove that Saturday’s results were not a fluke, Vonn landed on the podium once again in Sunday’s super G, finishing second behind Lara Gut of Switzerland. Maze, Friday’s downhill winner, rounded out Sunday’s podium in third. It was Vonn’s best super G finish since she won in St. Moritz in December 2012.
“It was a solid day and a phenomenal weekend for me,” Vonn said following Sunday’s race. “I felt like I was skiing aggressively and was pretty clean on the top, but my timing wasn’t quite right. I was late on some turns with my pressure. I carried pretty good speed on the flats, but my timing was off. For all my mistakes, I’m quite happy with second place.”
Mancuso had a solid run in super G, sitting in fifth for 15 racers, until Cornelia Huetter from Austria bumped her to sixth place overall. Cook and Ross also scored World Cup points, finishing in 23rd and 24th, respectively.
The women’s World Cup tour now heads to Åre, Sweden, a replacement site from Courchevel, France, for a giant slalom and slalom after low snow scrapped the Courchevel races. Vonn will remain at home in Vail, Colo. to train, looking ahead to the next speed races the following weekend in Val d’Isere, snow permitting.
“I just need a little more training,” she said. “I’m going back to Vail and training at Beaver Creek, and hope to be back in Val d’Isere. I’m a solid podium skier right now, but just need to get my timing back.”
Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup
Lake Louise (AB), Canada
Women’s Downhill #1 – Dec. 5, 2014
Women’s Downhill #2 – Dec. 6, 2014
Women’s Super G – Dec. 7, 2014