LAKE LOUISE: Lindsey Vonn led the United States to a historic World Cup podium sweep Saturday, cementing her return from injury with a triumph in second race of a weekend downhill doubleheader.
The 30-year-old ski racer and four time overall World Cup champ delivered her first victory since a high-speed crash in early 2013, charging down the Lake Louise World Cup course in a time of one minute, 50.48 seconds.
Vonn finished just 0.49 seconds ahead of teammate Stacey Cook while Julia Mancuso rounded out the American clean sweep by finishing third with a time of 1:51.05. It was the first US one-two-three finish in the alpine World Cup.
“I risked a lot more and I skied a lot better,” said Vonn. “I am extremely happy to be on the top of the podium against and also with my two teammates. It couldn’t be a better day.”
Vonn, who is racing with a brace on her right knee, felt she had left something on the table in Friday’s season-opening downhill where she finished eighth.
“I made the adjustment today. I tried to sit lower in my tuck and to be more aggressive in some turns. It paid off. I was just faster all the way down,” said Vonn, who let out a whoop of delight when she saw her time.
“Every day has gotten better here. I’m pushing the limits and I want more speed. I haven’t had that yet until today.”
The American speed queen tore her right knee ligaments and broke a bone in her leg in a super-G crash in February 2013 at the alpine World Championships.
She returned to racing nine months after the accident but her comeback was cut short when she re-injured the knee, forcing her to miss the Sochi Olympics where she had hoped to defend her 2010 Olympic downhill title.
So when she arrived in Lake Louise, Vonn hadn’t raced in almost a year. This marked the 15th career win for her in the event dubbed “Lake Lindsey”. Vonn won her first race in Lake Louise in December 2004.
She said her experience at the course helped her in conditions made difficult by poor light.
“There’s been some changing terrain here over the last couple days,” she said. “Every day is a little bit different. I tried to pay a little more attention to that because obviously you couldn’t see it today. The light was really bad, but I know this course really well.”
Vonn’s performance caught the eye of boyfriend Tiger Woods, who was struggling with illness in his own return to competition across the continent in Florida on Saturday.
“I competed and Linds won,” the golf star said on Twitter, briefly summing up the day for the high-profile couple.
Three-time US Olympian Cook just missed posting her first career World Cup victory. Her only other podiums came two years ago on the same course where she finished runner-up in another downhill doubleheader in the Canadian Rockies.
Cook said being part of the first USA podium clean sweep was a special feeling.
“I am as much excited for the whole experience of the three of us being on the podium as I am for myself,” Cook said. “I always thought it was possible with our team.”
Mancuso, who won a gold medal in the giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games, finished second in the Lake Louise super-G two years ago.
“It is my first downhill podium for a while, so that’s exciting,” said Mancuso.
The Lake Louise races continue Sunday with a super-G.