Cortina downhill win puts Vonn on track for Olympics
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — It’s exactly what Lindsey Vonn was hoping for — a dominant victory one month before she goes for gold at the Olympics.
Vonn amped up her preparations for the Pyeongchang Games by winning a World Cup downhill by a large margin Saturday while Italian rival Sofia Goggia avoided a major crash with the help of a safety air bag.
Vonn clocked 1 minute, 36.48 seconds on the sun-drenched Olympia delle Tofane course for a massive 0.92-second advantage over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein.
“I know what I’m capable of. This weekend just proves it,” Vonn said. “No matter what happens from here to the Olympics I’ll be confident. I have a good feeling on my skis. I feel balanced, in control and solid. This weekend was really important for me.
“This is just the momentum that I was hoping for and that I was planning on going to the Olympics,” added Vonn, who celebrated by riding an electric bicycle — a gift from the local organizing committee — around on the snow in the finish area.
Vonn’s U.S. teammate Jacqueline Wiles finished third, 0.98 behind, for her second career podium result.
Goggia, the winner of the past two downhills, lost control landing a jump in the Tofana Schuss and made a quick recovery but could not continue.
“I was able to control the fall with the help of the air bag,” Goggia said. “I ran a big risk. It was scary.”
Many racers wear an air bag in a vest under their racing suits. A complicated algorithm triggers inflation during falls when skiers reach a point where they can no longer regain control.
Vonn clocked 129.8 kph (80 mph) in the schuss, an imposing and narrow chute between two huge rock outcrops on the top section of the course.
“It was good, clean skiing today. I didn’t make any big mistakes like yesterday,” said Vonn, who finished second in Friday’s downhill after an error midway down.
“And it was just really fun to race. It was a beautiful day — normal, perfect Cortina sunshine — and perfect conditions,” Vonn added. “So it made me really happy just to be out there on the mountain today.”
It was Vonn’s second win this season, a record 12th in Cortina and 79th of her career — moving her within seven of Ingemar Stenmark’s record 86 World Cup victories.
“My focus right now is so much on the Olympics that I haven’t really thought about it that much this season,” Vonn said of Stenmark’s record. “After the Olympics, that will be my No. 1 priority again and I’ll try to rack up as many wins as possible before I retire.”
After a couple of crashes and a jarred back at the start of this season, Vonn had been holding back or sitting out races when conditions were difficult due to fog or ice.
So how will she handle it if the conditions for the Olympic downhill on Feb. 21 are not perfect?
“When I get to Korea there will be no holding back no matter what the conditions are. This is what I’ve been working for for the last eight years,” said Vonn, who missed the 2014 Sochi Games due to a series of knee injuries.
“The tactics leading into the Olympics are so that I can get to the Olympics healthy — not that I’m afraid to push myself in bad conditions,” Vonn added. “I know what I’m capable of and if I choose to ski aggressively I know what I can do. It’s all or nothing in Korea.”
Wiles was on course to finish second — trailing Vonn by just 0.30 seconds at the penultimate checkpoint — but then drifted too wide on a turn and lost a big chunk of time.
Still, Wiles was especially honored to share the podium with Vonn, who supported her financially when she was getting started on the circuit.
Wiles is also an ambassador for the Lindsey Vonn foundation.
“She’s done a lot for my career and she gave me an amazing course report and pumped me up through the radio before my run,” Wiles said. “I’m really grateful she’s such a great friend and role model I have to learn from.”
Up next is a super-G on Sunday.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org
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