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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) – Already perfect in the downhill this season, Lindsey Vonn now looks unstoppable in the super-G, too.
She won for the seventh time this season, regained the lead in the overall standings – perhaps for good – and sent a strikingly clear signal that she is indeed ready as the Vancouver Olympics near.
“Sometimes people just get this feeling that everything is clicking and everything is working well together,” she said. “And right now everything is working well for me.”
Vonn sped down the twisting Olympia delle Tofane course in 1 minute, 21.74 seconds. Fabienne Suter of Switzerland was 0.67 seconds behind. Anja Paerson of Sweden was third, 0.74 back.
The race was run in ideal conditions, with hard snow, clear skies and abundant sunshine displaying the full splendor of the jagged mountain peaks in one of Italy’s most spectacular resorts.
Paerson skied before Vonn and Suter and had the fastest run to that point. Still, the five-time Olympic medalist was shaking her head in frustration at the finish, realizing it wouldn’t be enough to beat Vonn.
“My skiing was too aggressive today. I never really got the chance to let my skis go out from my body and I was struggling the whole way,” said Paerson, still seeking her first win this season. “I skied aggressively to try to level it out, but I knew pretty much after about the fifth gate that I lost victory today.”
Vonn has won all four downhills this season. The American also took the previous super-G in Haus im Ennstal, Austria, when she won all three races in one weekend.
Skiing two racers after Paerson in a new white and black race suit, Vonn increased her advantage at each checkpoint. She pumped her fist at the finish, jerking her poles in delight – one of her biggest victory celebrations of late.
“I think that was right up there with the Haus super-G – just really pumped,” Vonn said. “It’s so rewarding when you have success like that because I’ve worked so hard.”
Vonn went two years without a super-G win until she found her form on the eve of last season’s world championships. She then finished the season with four consecutive victories in the event to take the season discipline title.
Similarly, she failed to win the opening two super-G’s this season in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Val d’Isere, France.
“Lake Louise I thought was pretty good but I could have pushed a little harder, and Val d’Isere was just a little passive for me,” Vonn said. “I remembered what I did last year when I was successful in super-G and I just took that confidence and that aggression into the last two super-G’s and it’s been working out really well for me.”
While the speeds are higher and the courses longer in downhill, super-G is often a tougher test because there are no training runs. Racers may inspect the course – ski down slowly and analyze it – the morning of the race.
Vonn needs to ski at about “90 percent” in super-G, according to husband and chief adviser Thomas Vonn, a former U.S. skier.
“You got to leave a little on the table just because it gives you the margin for error,” Thomas Vonn said. “You got to be going at it almost like it’s a GS but still have the touch like it’s a downhill. It’s a fine balance and she’s doing that extremely well now.
“Whether she’s on the top step of the podium or further back is usually a matter of her intensity or if she made a big mistake or something. Once she hones in where that intensity needs to be, then it seems to flow really easy for her like downhill does.”
Vonn was coming off a run of three technical races in which she failed to gain a single point. Now she’s in position to keep the overall lead for the rest of the season and clinch a third consecutive overall title.
Germany’s Maria Riesch, Vonn’s rival and good friend, made a major mistake midway down and finished 15th. Vonn leads Riesch 994-938 in the overall standings. Of the 13 races remaining this season only three are technical events.
“I’m pretty optimistic right now,” Vonn said. “If I can execute the next couple weeks then I hope that things should be looking even better.”
Vonn also leads the super-G standings, with twice as many points as second-place Suter.
Vonn will again be the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, then will attempt to get her technical skiing back on track in a giant slalom Sunday.
Before the Olympics open Feb. 12, only one more stop remains on the women’s calendar – in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
“I just hope I can keep it going up until and through Vancouver,” Vonn said.