Lindsey Vonn strikes gold in super-G at worlds |

Lindsey Vonn strikes gold in super-G at worlds

Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, reacts after completing the women's super g race, at the Alpine Ski World Championships, In Val d'Isere, France, Tuesday, Feb.3, 2009. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

VAL D’ISERE, France ” Lindsey Vonn finally has a gold medal at a world championship. Now she’s thinking about one for the Olympics.

Vonn won the super-G at the worlds Tuesday and suspects that will give her an edge when the Vancouver Games, her third Olympics, open next February.

“In my life I have always dreamed about succeeding at major events,” the 24-year-old American said. “It was really important for me to get the win. It gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the world championships and also for the next Olympics.”

Vonn excelled when conditions worsened and rivals skied out or couldn’t ski fast. She was timed in 1 minute, 20.73 seconds and was followed by France’s Marie Marchand-Arvier in 1:21.07 and Austria’s Andrea Fischbacher in 1:21.13.

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“I just gave it everything I had,” Vonn said. “I skied with my heart but also my mind. I skied the right line and that’s what it took today.”

Vonn raised her arms and punched the air upon crossing the line, a lifetime ambition about to be fulfilled.

“I am so, so, so happy and thankful that I was able to do it,” she said. “I’ve just been working my whole life for this moment.”

Vonn is the first U.S. woman to win a worlds gold since Hilary Lindh took the downhill at Sestriere, Italy, in 1997. She has won three races in five days, having taken a World Cup slalom and super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, over the weekend. She tied 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 leads the overall standings this season.

Silver medals in the downhill and super-G at the 2007 worlds in Are, Sweden, left Vonn with something to prove to herself. At the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin four years she did no better than sixth place.

Val d’Isere changed all that.

“I know I can do it under a lot of pressure,” Vonn said. “Obviously, the Olympics are going to be more pressure and even tougher. I am going to remember the feeling I had (Tuesday), mentally what I was thinking about at the start, and hopefully that experience will help me.”

From a start position of No. 21, Vonn had to attack the steep and highly technical Rhone-Alpes slope in fading light. She had seen proven performers ” two-time defending super-G champion Anja Paerson, Austria’s Renate Goetschl and U.S. teammate Julia Mancuso ” all fail to finish.

“The light was getting darker and darker as each racer came down,” Vonn said. “It was a difficult course setting. It was very bumpy, very difficult. I knew I had to have a near-perfect run to get on the podium.”

Vonn’s good friend and rival Maria Riesch placed eighth.

“She killed it,” Riesch said. “As the only one from the top seven actually skiing like she had some chance, she deserves the gold medal.”

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.”

Vonn, formerly Kildow, credits her 2007 marriage to one-time U.S. team racer Thomas Vonn in helping her become a champion.

“I am definitely more successful as Vonn,” she said at her news conference. “It is largely because of my husband that I won the overall (World Cup title) last year. Together we make a great team.”

She also thanked her parents and four siblings for the move from Burnsville, Minn., to Vail, Colo., that allowed 11-year-old Lindsey to develop as a skier.

“They moved all the kids,” she said. “They made a huge sacrifice to bring me out to Colorado so I could ski.”

Mancuso, of Olympic Valley, Calif., fell on her hip near the top and slid downhill for about 100 yards but was uninjured.

“My game plan today was all or nothing,” she said. “It’s pretty difficult the first couple of gates and I should have given myself a little more room.”

Stacey Cook, of Mammoth, Calif., placed 22nd. The fourth member of the American team, Chelsea Marshall, of Pittsfield, Vt., was out with a bad back.

The women next compete in a super-combi Friday. The men begin Wednesday with a super-G.

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