Lindsey Vonn was so nervous she was out of control.
A snowstorm in the French Alps forced the postponement of the
one race she wanted to win more than any other - the downhill at
the world championships - and she needed someone to calm her.
Thomas Vonn, her husband and former U.S. ski racer, did just that.
She won the downhill for her second gold at these championships,
giving her four victories in her last five races. Vonn became the
second American woman to win two golds at a worlds. Andrea Mead
Lawrence won the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Olympics,
which doubled as the worlds.
In the men's race, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won the
super-combi. Julien Lizeroux of France was second, 0.90 behind, and
Natko Zrncic-Dim of Croatia was third, 1.58 back.
Bode Miller squandered a chance at a medal, and Olympic champion
Ted Ligety was disqualified because his bindings were slightly too
high above his skis.
Vonn travels the circuit with his wife. For the first time,
Lindsey asked him to join her in the start area before a race. His
presence helped her top the blazing run put down by carefree Swiss
teenager Lara Gut and match childhood idol Picabo Street as
downhill world champion.
"Yesterday, when we had a cancellation, I was waiting at the
top and my nerves were out of control," Lindsey Vonn recalled. "I
was so nervous I didn't know what to do. I realized there was going
to be a problem, so I talked to my husband, and he talked to me
last night and this morning. And then I said, 'I need you. I need
you at the start. You need to help me.'
"And he was there for me and said all the right things," she
added. "It really got me in the right frame of mind. He was making
jokes and trying to relax me. And then when I was in the start, he
was telling me to take it, to do it. He believed in me, and that
made me believe more in myself."
Vonn won in 1 minute, 30.31 seconds. Gut was 0.52 behind to
match her silver in super-combi. Nadia Fanchini of Italy was third,
Miller made a great recovery in the downhill and needed only to
coast to the finish in the evening slalom leg under the lights.
Instead, Miller nearly lost control at the top before straddling a
gate, hiking back up, then going out again for good.
Miller hasn't won a medal since sweeping the downhill and
super-G at the 2005 worlds in Bormio, Italy. He and Hermann Maier
are the only men to accomplish the speed sweep at a worlds.
Vonn joined Anja Paerson and Maria Walliser as the only women to
do it. Paerson's sweep came at her home championships in Are,
Sweden, two years ago; Walliser did it at home in Crans Montana in
Switzerland in 1987. Vonn's feat was watched by few Americans.
"I really hope that this makes skiing more of a known sport in
the United States," she said. "Going into the Olympics next year,
I think a lot of people are going to be more excited about the
sport. That's what I'm really hoping to do. The more success that I
have, hopefully the more Americans will pay attention."
Vonn married Thomas before last season and went on to become the
first American woman to win the overall World Cup title in 25 years
- since Tamara McKinney in 1983. She leads the overall standings
again this season.
"He's the reason why I'm so successful in my sport," she said.
"I couldn't ask for anyone as great as him."
Thomas wasn't sure he could help in the start, an area usually
reserved only for team staff and coaches.
"It was mostly just relaxing her, taking the hype away from the
race," he said. "If you build something up to be so great that
you think you can't get it, then you're not going to get it. It was
really cool that she actually stepped up and did it."
Vonn opened the championships by winning the super-G Tuesday for
her first career gold medal at a worlds or Olympics. In the
super-G, she was the only contender to make a clean run in fading
"I was proud of myself for being able to accomplish that," she
said. "But downhill has always been my favorite discipline and
I've always wanted to win a gold in downhill."
Vonn won two World Cup races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany,
the weekend before the worlds. She was disqualified in the slalom
portion of Friday's super-combined.
Adding to her two silvers at the last worlds, Vonn also tied
McKinney for the U.S. women's record of four career medals at the
worlds. Street won the downhill at the 1996 worlds in Sierra
Nevada, Spain, and another American, Hilary Lindh, won in 1997 in
"Picabo has always been my huge idol," Vonn said. "I don't
know all the records. People are telling me randomly the records
that I'm breaking. But, for me, today it's just about the win, the
Vonn could win more medals in her remaining two individual
events, giant slalom and slalom.
"She skis just fine when the pressure is off," Thomas Vonn
said. "She skis well in slalom and GS now. Anything can happen."