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Vonn glides to super-G gold in France

AMERICAN skier Lindsey Vonn won the super-G at the World Championships yesterday in Val D'Isere, France, for her first major gold medal.

Vonn trailed early starter and local favorite Marie Marchand-Arvier midway down the Rhone-Alpes course but made up time on the Frenchwoman in the technical lower section.

"I knew that the light was not going to be good and was getting worse because the early runners were sitting 1-2, so I knew I just had to go for it," Vonn said.

"It's incredible to get my first gold medal. It's what I've worked for all my life," Vonn said. "It's my dream come true."

Vonn finished in 1 minute, 20.73 seconds. Marchand-Arvier was second, 0.34 seconds behind, and Andrea Fischbacher of Austria was third, 0.40 back.

Vonn trailed Marchand-Arvier by 0.36 midway down.

"It's a shame," Marchand-Arvier said. "Lindsey was very good today and I made a little mistake but I'll take it."

Two-time defending champion Anja Paerson missed a gate near the end of her run, although the Swede was already trailing the leaders by a large margin.

"(Vonn) was worthy to win today," Paerson said. "She is so perfect on the snow and very calm when she's skiing. She's always on a good line. I was not surprised she would win today."

Austrian rookie Anna Fenninger finished fourth and Tina Maze of Slovenia was fifth.

Vonn won two silvers at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago but had never won gold at a worlds or Olympics.

She has now won three races in five days, having taken a World Cup slalom and super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, over the weekend - tying Tamara McKinney's American women's record of 18 career victories.

Last season, Vonn became the first American woman to win the overall World Cup title in 25 years - since McKinney in 1983 - and she also leads the overall standings this season.

The race marked the first official competition on the new Rhone-Alpes course, which starts above the tree line with skiers approaching 100 kilometers per hour, then delves down into a forest with a series of curves before a steep descent into the finish. Several skiers fell or missed gates on the highly technical track.

The men's super-G is scheduled today on the Bellevarde course. The two tracks face each other and funnel into the same finish area.

Paerson attributed her struggles to the course and light.

"I really didn't feel comfortable. I never really got into it," she said. "It's difficult when you come at (the course) for the first time. It's pretty hard to get the beginning of the turns.

"You want a difficult course for a championship and it was one of the most difficult we have ever had. We are in the shadow for the whole time and the men are in the sunshine. I hope the visibility is better."

Renate Goetschl, the Austrian who is third all-time with 46 World Cup wins, missed a gate after getting rocked around by some bumps on the upper section. Julia Mancuso of the United States fell on her hip near the top, slid downhill for about 100 meters, then got up and appeared uninjured.

"I just fell down. I just went a little bit straight," Mancuso said. "My game plan today was all or nothing. It's pretty difficult the first couple of gates and I should have given myself a little more room."

Mancuso was impressed with Vonn's run.

"I think she skied a little conservative and it was pretty surprising that she was ahead at the end," Mancuso said. "She made up a lot of time on the bottom."


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