US skier Lindsey Vonn won the super-G at the World Championships on Tuesday for her first major gold medal.
Vonn trailed early starter and local favorite Marie Marchand-Arvier midway down the Rhone-Alpes course, but made up time on the Frenchwoman in the technical lower section.
“I knew that the light was not going to be good and was getting worse because the early runners were sitting 1-2, so I knew I just had to go for it,” Vonn said.
“It’s incredible to get my first gold medal. It’s what I’ve worked for all my life,” Vonn said. “It’s my dream come true.”
Vonn finished in 1 minute, 20.73 seconds. Marchand-Arvier was second, 0.34 seconds behind, and Andrea Fischbacher of Austria was third, 0.40 back.
Vonn trailed Marchand-Arvier by 0.36 midway down.
“It’s a shame,” Marchand-Arvier said. “Lindsey was very good today and I made a little mistake, but I’ll take it.”
Two-time defending champion Anja Paerson missed a gate near the end of her run, although the Swede was already trailing the leaders by a large margin.
“[Vonn] was worthy to win today,” Paerson said. “She is so perfect on the snow and very calm when she’s skiing. She’s always on a good line. I was not surprised she would win today.”
Austrian rookie Anna Fenninger finished fourth and Tina Maze of Slovenia was fifth.
Vonn won two silvers at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago but had never won gold at a worlds or Olympics.
“I just gave it everything I had. I skied with my heart but also with my mind,” Vonn said. “I skied the right line. That’s what it took today. I am so, so, so happy and thankful that I was able to do it.”
She has now won three races in five days, having taken a World Cup slalom and super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, over the weekend — tying Tamara McKinney’s US women’s record of 18 career victories.
Last season, Vonn became the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title in 25 years — since McKinney in 1983 — and she also leads the overall standings this season.
The race marked the first official competition on the new Rhone-Alpes course, which starts above the tree line with skiers approaching 100kph, then delves down into a forest with a series of curves before a steep descent into the finish. Several skiers fell or missed gates on the highly technical track.
The men’s super-G was scheduled for yesterday on the Bellevarde course. The two tracks face each other and funnel into the same finish area.
“There was one really tricky section,” Vonn said. “A really bumpy delay on the top section where Renate Goetschl and a couple of girls ran out. I gave myself a little bit higher line so I could carry my speed well onto the flats.”
Elisabeth Goergl of Austria finished sixth, Swiss teenager Lara Gut was seventh and Maria Riesch of Germany, who is second to Vonn in the overall World Cup standings, placed eighth.
“It is a little bit disappointing. I did think I had some chance of finishing in the top. I didn’t expect too much though,” Riesch said. “Lindsey showed that you can ski fast and aggressive here.”
Germany women’s head coach Mathhias Berthold added: “The conditions were extremely difficult, but Lindsey showed that even in such conditions you can ski fast.”
The race was run under mostly cloudy skies, with patches of blue sky.