Skiers finally get in Cortina training run

Updated: January 23, 2009, 11:31 AM ET
Associated Press

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy -- Overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn led a World Cup downhill training session Friday after three days of cancellations because of fog and snow.

Vonn posted her first podium finish on the Olympia delle Tofane course in 2004 and won the prestigious downhill last year. She has five top-three finishes overall on the course.

Vonn clocked 1 minute, 17.36 seconds on a shortened course. Andrea Fischbacher of Austria was second fastest, 0.22 seconds behind, and Kelly Vanderbeek of Canada was third.

"I definitely went more aggressive than I normally do in training runs, because I knew we only had one," said Vonn, who criticized organizers Thursday for canceling that day's training. "I think I pretty much nailed down the line. Maybe just one turn I can clean up and maybe tuck to the finish."

Nearly all the top skiers slowed down before crossing the finish line. Anja Paerson had the provisional best time, but was disqualified for missing a gate.

Conditions were clear and sunny for the top group, then clouds rolled in after the first 15 skiers. The downhill race is scheduled for Saturday, with a giant slalom Sunday and a super-G rescheduled for Monday.

A blizzard dumped more than 4 feet of fresh snow on the course earlier in the week and was followed by heavy fog, forcing the cancellation of a second downhill that had been moved from Lake Louise, Alberta. More snow was forecast overnight, putting Saturday's downhill at risk.

Vonn leads the overall standings with 776 points. Maria Riesch is second (765), followed by Paerson with 702.

Vonn was disappointed that World Cup organizers wiped off a downhill from the schedule because of poor conditions.

She became the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title in 25 years last season, largely based on her success in downhill. Only two downhill races, her best discipline, have been run.

Eight downhills and nine slaloms were scheduled at the beginning of this season.

"It's tough when we start the season with less downhills than slaloms to begin with," Vonn said. "Now with the weather, obviously it's no one's fault, but still we could make it up [next month] in Tarvisio. There's always places that we could make it up.

"I don't really know the politics behind it, or the sponsorships, but I know that I would really love to race another downhill. I wish it was organized a little better."

The scheduled Cortina downhill is on for Saturday, although more bad weather is forecast.

"If tomorrow gets canceled, it's going to be really, really tough," Vonn said. "It makes it really tough on me to try to defend the overall title when my discipline has the fewest amount of races compared to the other disciplines."

The training session marked the return of U.S. Ski Team veteran Caroline Lalive to Cortina since landing a jump awkwardly and injuring her knee three years ago. The injury cost Lalive a spot in the 2006 Turin Olympics a few weeks later.

After several knee surgeries, Lalive returned last month after nearly three years off the World Cup, but she has not finished better than 51st.

"I'm back. It's been harder than I anticipated for sure, but it's good to be skiing," Lalive said. "I'm happy. Skiing itself is just so cool. I can't complain."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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