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World Cup Rewind: Vonn leaves mark on Tarvisio

Though it was the first time Lindsey Vonn had ever raced in Tarvisio, Italy, she certainly didn’t waste any time putting her stamp on the place.

She also made American history while she was at it, notching her 19th World Cup victory in the super G and surpassing Tamara McKinney as the most successful American female racer of all time.

Things began with a super-combined race, which Vonn came very close to winning, putting down the fastest time in the downhill portion of the race, .76 ahead of Germany’s Maria Riesch. Riesch, however, proved once again why she is the World Slalom Champion and World Cup slalom leader, and absolutely dominated when it came to the tight gates. She beat Vonn to the top of the podium. Vonn was second with a combined time .49 seconds behind Riesch and World Super-Combined Champion Kathrin Zettel of Austria rounded out the podium, though she was 2.03 seconds off the winning pace.

Vonn said she held back slightly in the slalom because of adjustments she had to make in her technique, skiing with a brace and a thumb that’s healing from a torn ligament.Though it was the first time Lindsey Vonn had ever raced in Tarvisio, Italy, she certainly didn’t waste any time putting her stamp on the place.

She also made American history while she was at it, notching her 19th World Cup victory in the super G and surpassing Tamara McKinney as the most successful American female racer of all time.

Things began with a super-combined race, which Vonn came very close to winning, putting down the fastest time in the downhill portion of the race, .76 ahead of Germany’s Maria Riesch. Riesch, however, proved once again why she is the World Slalom Champion and World Cup slalom leader, and absolutely dominated when it came to the tight gates. She beat Vonn to the top of the podium. Vonn was second with a combined time .49 seconds behind Riesch and World Super-Combined Champion Kathrin Zettel of Austria rounded out the podium, though she was 2.03 seconds off the winning pace.

Vonn said she held back slightly in the slalom because of adjustments she had to make in her technique, skiing with a brace and a thumb that’s healing from a torn ligament.

“With my thumb it’s a little bit tricky with the balance, so that means taking a little (speed) off and just ski a little bit more conservatively,” she said.

Next on tap was the Tarvisio downhill, the course for which Vonn described as “easy,” and “not high-speed.”

Again, she put down a speedy run, separating herself significantly from the rest of the field except for one unexpected contender. That would be 21-year-old racer Gina Stechert of Germany, who had never before won a World Cup race or even landed on the podium. But Stechert put down a lightning fast, nearly flawless run that put her .01 seconds ahead of Vonn and on the top of the podium.

“Not only have I won, which is something I had never even dreamed of, but I beat Lindsey Vonn, who has won so many races and titles,” Stechert told reporters after the race. “I have no clue how this happened.”

Anja Paerson, who won the World Cup super-combined title after her fifth-place finish in the Tarvisio race, took third in the downhill, good-naturedly shaking Stechert’s fist in the air for the cameras to let the world know that the German had been the hero of the day.

Though no racer likes to be beat by such a miniscule fraction of time, Vonn was happy for Stechert.

“It’s a little bit disappointing,” she said. “To lose by one hundredth is always difficult. This was special for Gina. I’m really happy for her. She skied really well.”

Julia Mancuso flashed a glimpse of her potential with a 13th-place finish in the downhill while Chelsea Marshall had a stellar race, skiing into 17th place despite her 42nd-place starting position and having just recovered from a training crash and a DNF in the combined downhill run.

By the time the super G rolled around, second place just wouldn’t do for Vonn. The gate set for the super G turned out to be challenging, despite the lower angle of the course, and Vonn put down a solid run, holding her tuck steadily over four jumps and cutting a tight line around each of the tricky gates at the top of the course. She held her speed through the finish for her record-setting victory.

“It sounds really weird to me,” Vonn said. “I don’t see myself as a record setter and actually never thought it was possible to pass a legend like Tamara, but I’m extremely thrilled.”

It was the third consecutive SG victory for Vonn, as she also won the World Championships Super G crown in Val d’Isere and the preceding SG World Cup race in Garmisch. Swiss racer Fabienne Suter took second to Vonn in Tarvisio, finishing .51 seconds off Vonn’s pace and Slovenian GS world champion silver medalist Tina Maze was third, .67 seconds back.

Though she may not see herself as a record-setter, Vonn is in position to break yet more records. If she wins the World Cup overall title again this season, she will be the first American woman to take the title two straight seasons.

After last weekend, she leads the overall standings with 1374 points, significantly ahead of Riesch, who trails with 1075 points.

The women’s tour heads to Bansko, Bulgaria, this weekend for two more downhill races (one of which is a make-up race from St. Moritz) and another super G.

The tour then goes to Ofterschwang, Germany, March 6-7 for GS and slalom before wrapping up with World Cup finals in Are, Sweden, March 9-15.

Watch all the racing live, plus highlights from Tarvisio, on universalsports.com.

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