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Dec 12, 2015 1:56 PM

Vonn's Minnesota skiing roots pay off during win in Sweden

The Associated Press

All these years later, those nightly after-school training sessions at Buck Hill in Minnesota are still paying off for Lindsey Vonn.

Attacking an artificially lit course where no other competitor dared, Vonn won a World Cup giant slalom in Are, Sweden, on Saturday for her fourth consecutive victory while American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin missed the race following a warmup crash.

While she specializes in the speed events of downhill and super-G, Vonn has now won four giant slaloms in her career with two of them coming in Are.

There's something about the Swedish resort located near the Arctic Circle with the mountain hovering over a lake that reminds Vonn of Minnesota.

"I just like it. ... It's like the same landscape," said Vonn, who moved to Vail, Colorado, as an adolescent. "When I was a kid I always trained under the lights after school. So I really like racing under the lights. It's really fun."

Charging down a shortened course due to strong winds in the opening run, Vonn held on to her lead in the second run amid snowfall and clocked a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 4.70 seconds.

Eva-Maria Brem of Austria finished second, 0.07 seconds behind, and discipline leader Federica Brignone of Italy was third, 0.35 back.

Vonn swept three speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend.

"I feel really good on my skis and balanced. I have a lot of confidence, especially after Lake Louise," she said. "I said last week if I finish Lake Louise strong that always means good things for the rest of the season."

Shiffrin, the 20-year-old Olympic slalom champion, was taken to a local hospital for tests on her right knee.

"She basically flipped over into the net," Shiffrin's manager Kilian Albrecht told The Associated Press. "She's in the hospital waiting for the MRI which will probably take a while."

Vonn increased her lead over Shiffrin in the overall standings to 104 points. Lara Gut of Switzerland, who finished 13th, is third overall, 122 points back.

Sara Hector of Sweden, the first starter, pulled up midway through her run with an apparent knee injury and was taken down the course on a sled.

"I hope both of them are OK," Vonn said. "Ski racing needs Mikaela and Sara. We can't afford to lose any more athletes so I really hope that they're both OK. We need them back at the start tomorrow."

With Tina Maze taking this season off and defending overall champion Anna Fenninger out injured for the year, Shiffrin and Vonn are the top overall contenders.

It was the 71st World Cup win of Vonn's career. She broke the previous women's record of 62 wins set by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell last season and now is taking aim at Ingemark Stenmark's overall mark of 86 victories.

"I'm just trying to win. Every time I'm in the start I try to ski as fast as I can. I have nothing to lose and I think that makes me a dangerous competitor, because I'm not afraid of falling or losing," Vonn said.

While Vonn continues to break records, her tactics have also led to numerous crashes. She missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics following a series of right knee injuries.

"Yeah, but that's how I roll," she said. "I'm always going to push myself to the limit in every race that I enter. That's just how I am. That's why I've had the career that I've had."

In the second run, Vonn's lead over Brem was down to just three hundredths at the final interval but her gliding skills paid off over the final gates.

Vonn let out a big celebration, pumping her poles and screaming before kissing her skis.

"The old woman still has some tricks up her sleeve," the 31-year-old Vonn added. "I'm not maybe as agile as I used to be. I'm not maybe as explosive. But at the same time I know my ability and I know what I can do and I know in different situations what is required of me."

While Shiffrin's status was uncertain, Vonn is not planning to enter Sunday's slalom race.

"I'm young enough to ski well in GS but not young enough to still be good in slalom," Vonn said with a laugh.


Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf


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