ZAUCHENSEE, Austria - In an unusual twist, Lindsey Vonn relied on her technical skills to bail her out after she struggled to control her speed.
The reigning overall and downhill champion nearly crashed early in the downhill portion of a super-combined race, but used her improved slalom skills in the second part to take the victory.
Vonn had the third-fastest slalom run to finish in an aggregate time of 2 minutes, 40.53 seconds. Kathrin Zettel of Austria was second, 0.30 seconds behind, while Anja Paerson of Sweden was third, trailing Vonn by 0.66.
“It was incredible. It was a tough day,” said Vonn, who won her third World Cup title of the season and 16th overall. “I thought that I would be hurt or crashing, I thought it was over.”
Vonn is known for her prowess in the speed events, but lost her balance while jumping and almost crashed backward on the technically demanding Kaelberloch downhill. She broke the fall with her right arm and recovered to finish the run in fourth.
Vonn had not used her race skis during downhill training Thursday and Friday and was surprised by their speed.
“I was having troubles as my skis were so fast,” she said. “It was so hard to control on the top and I definitely jumped a lot further than I anticipated.”
Vonn was more than a second behind at the first intermediate time but attacked to decrease her deficit.
“I was able to get it together again and I had a really good bottom part,” she said.
Vonn had 0.36 seconds to make up in her slalom run, and was helped when Maria Riesch of Germany — who has won four straight slaloms and was third after the downhill — skied out when she misjudged a turn early in her slalom run.
“I tried to get a solid, clean run, no mistakes,” Vonn said. “It was good enough for the win.”
Riesch stayed atop the overall standings with 729 points, with her best friend Vonn second on 716.
“It’s not all perfect for me as Maria wasn’t there on the podium as well,” Vonn said. “I feel really bad for her. In slalom everything can happen in the blink of en eye. Same thing happened to me in Zagreb (two weeks ago).”
American teammate Julia Mancuso, who won on this course two years ago with Vonn in second place, went out of contention after a bump in the downhill course threw her off her line.
Larisa Yurkiw of Canada, who started with bib 47 and surprised the field by posting the fastest time in the downhill run, also went out early in her slalom run by missing a gate.
Zettel, who prefers the technical events, posted the second-fastest time in the slalom after finishing 10th in the downhill.
“I was totally surprised by my downhill performance,” said Zettel, who is third in the overall standings with 651 points. “But I will skip Sunday’s downhill and get myself ready for the races in Cortina d’Ampezzo (in Italy next week).”
Paerson, the super-combined world champion who had won the only previous event this season in December, had a flawless downhill run until she skied off course before the steep final part of the course.
“The gates in the middle part are very tight, I was almost in the net,” Paerson said. “I lost almost a second there, and that was just because of two gates.”
Paerson went into the slalom leading Riesch and Vonn by more than 0.3 seconds but soon lost that advantage.
“I skied too defensively,” Paerson said. “I know I can do a lot better in slalom.”
A women’s downhill is scheduled for Sunday in Zauchensee.
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