American Vonn wins downhill at worlds

Updated: February 9, 2009, 5:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

VAL D'ISERE, France -- Lindsey Vonn won the women's downhill Monday for her second gold at the world championships, holding off a stiff challenge from Swiss teenager Lara Gut.

The American was timed in 1 minute, 30.31 seconds for her run down the Rhone-Alpes course.

Gut finished second, 0.52 behind, to match her silver medal in the super-combined, and Nadia Fanchini of Italy was third, 0.57 back.

[+] EnlargeLindsey Vonn
AP Photo/Luca BrunoLindsey Vonn's gold tied her with Tamara McKinney for the U.S. women's record of four career medals at the world championships.

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. Lara Gut looked like she had an amazing run and I didn't know if I was going to do it," Vonn said. "I really wanted it so bad. I fought the whole way down and nailed the bottom section. It was really important to carry the speed and that is the reason why I was able to win."

Vonn's victory came with a price as she cut her right thumb on a champagne bottle while celebrating. Vonn required four stitches to close the wound, but team officials said they did not expect her to miss her remaining events, giant slalom and slalom.

Vonn has now won four of her last five races, her only loss coming when she was disqualified in the slalom portion of Friday's super-combined. Before the worlds, she posted two World Cup victories in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Vonn joined Andrea Mead Lawrence as the only American women to win two golds at a world championship. Lawrence won the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Olympics, which doubled as the worlds.

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

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.

Vonn hugged her husband and chief adviser Thomas in the finish area.

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

The 17-year-old Gut registered the top speed at 64.6 mph but couldn't match Vonn's line.

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, with her best result being third in her downhill debut in St. Moritz, Switzerland a year ago. Her only World Cup win came in super-G last season, also in St. Moritz.

After missing much of the season with an irregular heartbeat, Fanchini won a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, to open this season. Her sister Elena took silver in downhill at the 2005 worlds in Bormio-Santa Caterina, Italy.

The race was initially scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed due to excessive snowfall.

Course conditions were better Monday, but visibility was still a factor. The light was good for the early skiers, such as the sixth starter Gut, then clouds moved over the course after Fanchini, who was eighth out of the gate.

Andrea Fischbacher, who was third in the super-G, skied after Fanchini and struggled.

Marie Marchand-Arvier, the Frenchwoman who was second in the super-G, also made minor mistakes in her run.

Elisabeth Goergl of Austria finished fourth and Marion Rolland and Marchand-Arvier of France were fifth and sixth.

Better light returned for the top-ranked skiers such as Paerson and Vonn.

Vonn's American teammate Stacey Cook finished ninth, Maria Riesch of Germany was 10th and Emily Brydon of Canada 11th.

"Lindsey has a great feel on her skis and great technique," Brydon said. "When she puts it all together she's unbeatable. Lara is a great skier but ignorance is bliss.

"She really doesn't know what she does to go fast. She just goes fast. What Lindsey does week after week is even more impressive. She really has a strong mind on her head."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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