USA ski star Lindsey Vonn ends career with bronze in world downhill
Lindsey Vonn, the most successful women skier of all time with a record 20 World Cup titles to her name and 82 victories on the circuit, clocked 1min 02.23sec, briefly leading before slipping behind Ilka Stuhec and Swiss silver medallist Corinne Suter in the Swedish resort of Are.Updated: Feb 10, 2019 19:42 IST
US ski star Lindsey Vonn brought her illustrious career to a close with a hard-fought bronze at Sunday’s world downhill which was won by defending champion Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.
Vonn, the most successful women skier of all time with a record 20 World Cup titles to her name and 82 victories on the circuit, clocked 1min 02.23sec, briefly leading before slipping behind Stuhec and Swiss silver medallist Corinne Suter in the Swedish resort of Are.
While all the build-up had been about Vonn, Stuhec became the first skier to successfully defend the women’s downhill world title since Swiss Maria Walliser (1987, 1989), with only three others having previously won twice in a row.
Vonn herself joined Kjetil Andre Aamodt (seven separate years), Marc Girardelli (six), and Aksel Lund Svindal (nine) as the only skiers to have collected a medal at six World Ski Championships.
At 34 years and 115 days old, she also became the oldest world medallist, performing in front of an onlooking Ingemar Stenmark, the Swedish skiing legend whose record of 86 World Cup victories Vonn will now not break.
For her final downhill, the American donned a blue and grey helmet and white catsuit, with blue and yellow lines around her sleeves, lower leg and midriff in what she said was both a nod to host country Sweden and to honour nemesis Stenmark.
Racing with bib number three, Vonn had laid out her mindset in an instagram post just before the race.
“One last time I will stand in the starting gate. One last time I will feel the adrenaline running through my veins. One last time I will risk it all. One last time, I will remember it forever. Let’s do this!” she said.
Pushing aggressively out of the start hut with a scream of exhortation, Vonn quickly skated into a tuck to attack the Strecke course shortened to 1.67km instead of the full 2.23km because of fog up top.
“I feel the need... the need for speed!” the on-site commentator said to rev up a large, vociferous crowd gathered around the finish area.
Vonn was 0.23sec behind at the first intermediary, but laid down a near-perfect midsection to come through 0.33sec ahead of Germany’s frontrunner Viktoria Rebensburg.
The crowd roared as she flashed through the finish line, Rebensburg jumping off the leader’s chair to go and embrace the American.
Applause followed as images of Vonn being handed a bouquet of white flowers by Stenmark were flashed up on the big screen television.
Vonn then had to endure a host of rivals coming down the piste. Reigning Olympic champion Sofia Goggia of Italy made two big errors to finish 15th, 1.02sec off the pace.
But for a mistake three turns from the bottom, Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel, a surprise combined bronze medallist, would have taken the lead, eventually finishing fifth.
Austrian Stephanie Venier then streaked down, finising 0.04sec off Vonn, leaving the American clutching her face in angst.
As the sun broke through so later skiers flourished, and Slovenian Stuhec made no mistake, laying down a perfect line to take the lead 0.49sec ahead of Vonn.
Then came the Austrian pair of Nicole Schmidhofer, world super-G champion in 2017, and Ramona Siebenhofer, who just missed out on a medal in the combined here. But neither troubled the podium.
Starting in 19, super-G bronze medallist Suter rocked the apple cart by claiming silver, 0.23sec off Stuhec.
First Published: Feb 10, 2019 18:40 IST