ARE, Sweden (AP) — Lindsey Vonn showed she is back to her best by winning a downhill race Saturday, three weeks after a concussion curtailed her world championships. This marked the 40th World Cup victory of her career, extending her American record for men and women.
Vonn finished in 1 minute, 40.93 seconds for her seventh victory this season. She was followed by Tina Maze of Slovenia, who trailed by 0.13 seconds, and World Cup leader Maria Riesch of Germany.
“It’s still hard to believe I have 40 victories,” the 26-year-old Vonn said. “It’s a big number, so I’m incredibly happy. I feel lucky that I’m able to do what I love every day.”
Vonn withdrew from the late stages of the world championships on Feb. 14 because of the lingering effects of a concussion. Vonn crashed during training on Feb. 2 in Austria.
She finished sixth in the super-combined event on Friday in her first race since the worlds.
Vonn was 0.04 behind Maze on her second time split, but accelerated strongly in the middle section and made a clean jump into the bottom slope. She clenched her fist and threw her head back as she crossed the finish line at the Swedish resort, then waved to the crowd.
“I did my best, and I think it was a good, aggressive run,” Vonn said.
Vonn did not perform well in her opening events at worlds. She finished seventh in super-G, pulled out after the downhill portion of the super-combi and took silver in the downhill. She said it felt like she was “skiing in a fog,” unable to maintain her concentration for an entire run.
Vonn passed a series of concussion protocol exams each day during worlds, but the defending World Cup overall champion drew criticism for competing so soon after a head injury while still reporting symptoms.
Vonn admitted what she calls the “tabloid gossip” surrounding her concussion got to her.
“No one was really listening to what I was saying, either. It was definitely a really hard time for me,” she said. “Some people were saying that I shouldn’t race because it’s too dangerous, and some people were saying that I’m just making it up, that it’s not even true. You know, it’s like tabloid gossip.”
Vonn leads by more than 100 points in the downhill standings, but trails Riesch by 176 in the overall race.
It was Vonn’s third downhill win this season after Val d’Isere, France, and Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria.
“I think that some athletes, their style of skiing suits certain hills more than others. Are, Val d’Isere, and Lake Louise are a few of the hills I really like,” Vonn said. “I would like to think I could do well on any course, but there are certain courses I definitely like more.”
American Stacey Cook of the United States was fifth, and teammate Julia Mancuso finished 11th.
Swiss skier Nadja Kamer crashed hard during her run and bruised her left wrist and thumb. She caught the tip of her left ski in the safety netting as she took a turn too wide near the top section of the Olympia course.
Kamer spun around twice, flew across the side of the course on her back and front before hitting the netting. She will wear a cast on her wrist as a precautionary measure.
“Everyone was sitting next to the TV at the start and was like ‘Oh no!’,” Riesch said. “I think the course setting was not good at this section … This was not the safest way to set (the course).”
The race was delayed for several minutes. Local favorite Anja Paerson was next after Kamer’s crash, but went too wide and out, prompting groans from the crowd. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria, who won the downhill at worlds, also misjudged the top part and failed to finish.
Riesch said she also struggled with the conditions.
“It didn’t feel great but I’m happy with the result,” Riesch said. “The visibility changed a lot, it was really dark (and) the snow was much faster than in the training runs. So it was not easy to find the perfect line.”
Vonn also commented on the course.
“It was tough conditions, pretty flat light and it was hard to see all the terrain and the speeds were high today,” she said. “That big left-footed turn was causing a lot of problems.”
Vonn has a chance for a 41st win in Sunday’s super-G, but is more concerned with improving her slalom.
“My training’s going really well in slalom,” Vonn said. “I think I’ve figured some things out with my set-up. I just haven’t been able to put it through to the finish.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)