Vonn finished third in the
Sochi downhill but had
enough points to seal up
the season title.
Adverse weather hampered
the skiing all week in Sochi
and eventually led to the
cancellation of the last super
combined of the season.
The time sheet didn’t give fantasy racer
players much to go on. The next day’s
trainer was called off after eight inches of
snow collected on the course overnight,
leaving only Feb. 17 for a full practice run,
which Lindsey Vonn led by 1.27 seconds.
The American star got plenty of atten-
tion on her first trip to Russia. She happily
provided signatures for course workers,
forerunners and even media. The reign-
ing Olympic downhill champ said she was
pleased with the Bernhard Russi-designed
course right away.
“The terrain here is really cool, it has ev-
erything: side hills traverses, flats steeps,
turns like super G, big open turns, it really
has everything,” she said after the Feb. 17
The course that has everything got even
more the night before race day as some
weather rolled in, dropping two to three
inches of snow on the course and making
the lighting flat and the surface bumpy.
Vonn was one of only three women who
had won World Cup downhill races this
season, and she was the first of them to ski
on race day in bib No. 17. She was rattled
out of her tuck on several sections of the
1.7-mile course, and though she crossed
the finish line with a temporary lead, her
pursed lips and a slightly shaking head hint-
ed that she knew she hadn’t done enough
to win her fifth downhill of the season.
Hoefl-Riesch was the very next starter
out of the gate. Green (leading) split times
flashed the whole way down the six-foot-
tall German’s run as she managed to hold
a tight tuck in the sections of the course
that dislodged Vonn. Hoefl-Riesch, who
had only won one race this season (a su-
per combined in St. Moritz) came in 0.56
seconds faster than Vonn and held on to
win as Austrian Elisabeth Goergl (0.43
seconds back) slipped between Hoefl-Ri-
esch and Vonn to finish second.
At the 2008 test events in Whistler, two
years before the Vancouver Games, Hoefl-
Riesch won a super combined that proved
to be prophetic when she claimed a gold
medal in the same discipline at the 2010
Games. The defending overall World Cup
champion was hopeful she had once again
triggered the omen.
“It’s really important,” Hoefl-Riesch told
reporters. “In Whistler, two years before
the Olympics I won the super-combined …
and I won two gold medals two years later.
But it’s never a guarantee; it’s just good to
know you can be fast on a special track
where a big event takes place.”
Vonn said she had given the unfamiliar
course a little too much respect. “I may
have been a little cautious on the top, be-
cause the coaches were saying outside
the track was really soft, so I tried to stay
a little bit above the line, but I think may-
be that wasn’t the fastest line,” said Vonn,
who also regretted the decision she and
her serviceman had made to stray from
the skis that had taken her to the top at her
four downhill wins this season.
After the first 51 starters, a band of fog at