Vonn claims gold in downhill
The American takes her second gold of the World Championships.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2009 18:50 GMT

Lindsey Vonn completes her double [GALLO/GETTY]
Lindsey Vonn of the United States won the women's downhill for her second gold of the World Championships, holding off a stiff challenge from Swiss teenager Lara Gut with the help of some soothing words from her husband Thomas.

Vonn won in 1 minute, 30.31 seconds on the Rhone-Alpes course. Gut finished second, 0.52 behind, to match her silver medal in super-combined, and Nadia Fanchini of Italy was third, 0.57 back.

Vonn opened the championships by winning the super-G on Tuesday for her first career gold medal at a worlds or Olympics.

"I was so nervous today,'' Vonn said. "Lara Gut looked like she had an amazing run and I didn't know if I was going to do it.''

The downhill was initially scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed due to excessive snow.


Vonn built up so much tension that she took the unusual move of asking her husband, a former U.S. Ski Team racer and her chief adviser, to stay with her up at the start for the first time in her career.

"My nerves were out of control,'' Vonn said. "I realised there was going to be a problem probably for today, so I talked to my husband, and he talked to me last night and this morning and then I said, 'I need you. I need you at the start. You need to help me.'

"And he was there for me and said all the right things. It really got me in the right frame of mind,'' Vonn added.

"He was making jokes and trying to relax me. And then when I was in the start, he was telling me to take it, to do it. He believed in me, and that made me believe more in myself. I'm just so thankful that I have someone like him. He's the reason why I'm so successful in my sport.''

Vonn has won four of her last five races, having also posted two World Cup victories in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, the weekend before the worlds.

She was disqualified in the slalom portion of Friday's super-combined.

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Vonn joined Andrea Mead Lawrence as the only American woman to win two golds at a World Championship.

Mead Lawrence won the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Olympics, which doubled as the worlds.

"To get something historical means so much to me,'' Vonn said. "That is why I work so hard out here doing my best.''

Adding to her two silvers at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago, Vonn also tied Tamara McKinney for the U.S. women's record of four career medals at worlds.

Vonn also matched her childhood idol Picabo Street, who won the downhill at the 1996 worlds in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Another American, Hilary Lindh, won in 1997 in Sestriere, Italy.

"Picabo has always been my huge idol,'' Vonn said. "I don't know all the records. People are telling me randomly the records that I'm breaking, but for me, today it's just about the win, the gold medal.''

Defending champion Anja Paerson was faster than Vonn midway down before the Swede made a few major errors and finished tied for 12th with Aurelie Revillet of France.

Lindsey Vonn flies towards first place [GALLO/GETTY]
Fighting hard

Vonn matched Paerson (in Are) and Maria Walliser of Switzerland (in Crans Montana in 1987) as the only women to sweep both speed events at worlds.

The 17-year-old Gut registered the top speed of 104 kmph but couldn't match Vonn's line.

"I fought the whole way down and nailed the bottom section,'' Vonn said.

"It was really important to carry the speed and that is the reason why I was able to win.''

While her run was the fastest at the time, Gut shook her head when she crossed the finish line.

"I knew it was insufficient for gold,'' Gut said. "I have incredible pain in the belly. I don't know why. It's certainly not the food, nor nervousness.''

Gut has raced only four World Cup downhills in her career, with her best result being third in her discipline debut on home snow in St. Moritz a year ago.

Her only World Cup win came in super-G this season, also in St. Moritz.

After missing much of the season with an irregular heart beat, Fanchini won a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, to open the season.

Her sister Elena took silver in downhill at the 2005 worlds in Bormio-Santa Caterina, Italy.

Elisabeth Goergl of Austria finished fourth, followed by a pair of Frenchwomen, Marion Rolland and Marie Marchand-Arvier.

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