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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — In a day characterized by heavy winds and inconsistent light on the course, perhaps the only predictable element of the women’s downhill at Lake Louise was its winner.
American Lindsey Vonn collected her eighth win at the Alberta, Canada downhill with a time of 1 minute, 53.19 seconds. She outpaced the day’s second fastest racer, Tina Weirather of Leichtenstein, by nearly two seconds.
“I really couldn’t believe it when I got to the finish,” Vonn said of the time gap between her and the field’s second best. “It was definitely tough conditions with the wind and the light changing, but I just tried to stay in a low position and not let it affect me. It was awesome.”
Racers said they could feel the wind heavily as they were ripping down the course, which begins above treeline and meanders through steeper, more technical portions and glide sections.
“I felt comfortable the whole way. I was skiing aggressively but not out of my comfort zone,” Vonn said. “I felt like I had good timing the whole way down — good rhythm. My skis were fast, and it just all came together.”
For Vonn, it was the largest margin of victory of her World Cup career. With the win, she improved to fourth on the women’s all-time World Cup win list, with 43, behind Annemarie Moser Proell (62), Vreni Schneider (55) and Renate Goetschl (46).
Vonn finished second best in both Lake Louise downhills in 2010, which was out of character for the Olympic gold medalist, who had won all previous downhill races at the venue since 2006.
Alice McKennis, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., finished in eighth as she made her return to racing action after suffering a broken knee nearly a year ago in Val d’Isere, France. Julia Mancuso, after losing serious ground in a final section of the course, finished in 16th, while Stacey Cook took 18th and Leanne Smith, 29th.
Asked what it is about the Lake Louise hill that lends itself to her dominance over the years, Vonn wasn’t exactly sure. “I don’t really know the answer. I feel really comfortable here. It’s really peaceful, and I have a great feeling on the hill,” she said.
She pointed to “Fish Net” — a steep, technical portion midway down the track, which collects racers like salmon in the A-netting — as the most crucial point of the course because, from there, skiers need to carry their speed into the bottom.
“Every year, that’s where I make up most of my time. That’s where I’m most concentrated, knowing it’s the most important part of the course,” Vonn said. “I wish we could have all the downhills here.”
With the win, Vonn will have good energy heading into next week’s races at Beaver Creek, which were moved from Val d’Isere due to lack of snow. It will be the first time the women have raced on the famed Birds of Prey track. The ladies are set to race super-G on Dec. 7.
“I’m really so excited that I get to race in my hometown of Vail. It’s going to be awesome,” Vonn said. “On Sunday, when we’re doing the super-G (in Lake Louise) I’ll really be focused on super-G. I’ve never actually skied on the (Beaver Creek) course. I was a course slipper in the World Championships but never actually skied down it.” –Geoff Mintz