Austrian Anna Fenninger prevailed in one of the closest overall title races in women’s World Cup history, winning the World Cup Finals giant slalom in foggy Meribel, France, on Sunday.
Fenninger edged Tina Maze in the season-long standings by 22 points to repeat as World Cup overall champion. It’s the smallest margin of victory since Maria Hoefl-Riesch beat Lindsey Vonn by three points in 2011.
Fenninger came into Sunday’s finale trailing Maze by 18 points. She scored 100 points for her race victory, while Maze was third for 60 points. Fenninger totaled 1,553 points. Maze had 1,531.
“It’s hard to describe because there was so much pressure for so many days, so many weeks,” said Fenninger, who skied last because she was fastest in the first of two runs (by .27 over Maze) earlier Sunday. “I was so nervous before the run. When I came to the finish and saw the green light [indicating victory], it was incredible, unbelievable. I am so thankful to live my dream.”
“My goal next year is to be top five in as many races as I can in giant slalom and be more consistent in super-G and downhill,” Vonn told media in Meribel. “I won a lot of races this year, but I was also a few times 10th and seventh.”
Mikaela Shiffrin finished seventh Sunday, fourth in the overall standings and third in the giant slalom standings. The three-time World Cup slalom champion has improved in giant slalom from 49th to 19th to seventh the previous three seasons. She hopes to challenge for the World Cup giant slalom title next season and perhaps make her World Cup debut in super-G.
Vonn and Shiffrin will next head to the U.S. Alpine Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine, this week. Vonn will forerun, and Shiffrin will race.
Lindsey Vonn felt pretty nervous as she wiggled her hands on her ski poles at the start gate Thursday morning.
“I knew I had to risk everything if I wanted to get the title,” she said. “I risked it all.”
Vonn came through, capturing a record-tying 19th World Cup season title by earning her record-extending 67th World Cup victory, a super-G at the World Cup Finals in Meribel, France.
Why the risk?
Austrian Anna Fenninger grabbed a large lead, .71 of a second, eight minutes before Vonn stepped up to the start gate. Vonn knew she could only win the season super-G title, accumulating results since December, if she finished ahead of Fenninger, the hottest skier on tour over the last month.
Before both of their runs, Vonn was shown on camera among a group of people watching a TV screen as Fenninger prepared to race.
“[Fenninger] definitely put a lot of pressure on me,” Vonn, who also bagged the downhill title Wednesday, said in a finish-area interview. “I knew she was leading when I was at the top. … I just attacked, and I had nothing to lose.”
On Thursday, Vonn crossed the finish line after 67 seconds of all-out skiing, saw she had overtaken Fenninger — easily by .49 — raised her arms, screamed, slid to a stop and fell to the snow, smiling in celebration.
“I really like the high-pressure situations,” Vonn said. “Sometimes when it demands strong skiing, then I can bring it out.”
Fenninger, in the leader’s box, clapped politely.
Vonn notched her eighth victory of the season and joined Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark as the only skiers to reach 19 season titles across all disciplines and the overall. She won’t be able to go for No. 20 until next season but is expected to race again in Meribel, in the giant slalom Sunday.
“Things have gone a lot better this year than I ever could have anticipated,” Vonn said. “I wasn’t really sure where I would stack up being gone for almost two years.”
Vonn won her third straight race Thursday, her first winning streak since December 2012, two months before she crashed at the 2013 World Championships, requiring the first of two major knee surgeries that kept her from the Sochi Olympics.
”I haven’t had any problems [with my knee], really, since Beaver Creek [World Championships in February],” Vonn said. “It’s been hard to maintain the strength on my right leg. … I’m still atrophied from the two surgeries.”
She also took the super-G season title for a fifth time, tying a record shared by German Katja Seizinger, Austrian Hermann Maier and Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal.
Vonn also made a World Cup podium for the 113th time, tying Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell‘s women’s record. Stenmark made 155 podiums.
“I solidified to myself and to everyone that I’m back,” Vonn said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
She did so after missing most of the previous season and not returning to skiing training until October.
“It’s been up and down [this season],” said Vonn, who was disappointed to come away from the World Championships near her Vail, Colo., home with one bronze medal. “I just don’t have that much training. … When I have training and I have confidence, then I ski like I did this week, confident and I have power in my skiing. Sometimes I just was a little bit off rhythm and couldn’t quite find my form. So I think next year, when I can actually prepare normally, I will be much more consistent.”
That crystal globe trophy will go to either Fenninger or Tina Maze this weekend. Fenninger, trying to become the first woman since Vonn to repeat as overall champion, leads by 32 points with two races to go.
Vonn, while holding the women’s World Cup wins record, is now 19 victories shy of Stenmark’s overall World Cup record of 86 first-place finishes. If she wins eight races each of the next three seasons, as she did this season, she would pass Stenmark during the 2018 Olympic season.
“It just seems … all of his records are just not attainable,” Vonn said. “Mathematically, it’s definitely possible. … I feel like it’s a little bit too far away to start thinking about that right now.”
Earlier Thursday, Canadian Dustin Cook notched his first World Cup victory in the men’s super-G. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud had already clinched the season title. Two-time Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht was the only U.S. finisher in 15th.
The World Cup Finals continue with a team event Friday. Mikaela Shiffrin will try to wrap up her third straight slalom season title Saturday. Vonn is expected to join Shiffrin in the giant slalom field Sunday.
Lindsey Vonn won for the seventh time this season, the 66th time in her World Cup career, and clinched her record-tying seventh World Cup downhill season title in Meribel, France, on Wednesday.
“It’s incredible,” Vonn said shortly after receiving her 18th career crystal globe trophy across all disciplines at the World Cup Finals. “After being out for two years with two major knee operations was definitely hard. To come back this year to get the downhill title again and to have an amazing season means so much to me.
“This is probably the most meaningful globe I’ve ever won.”
Vonn beat the field by .24, raising her arms and screaming after she crossed the finish line and saluting the crowd, which included several “Lindsey We Love You” signs. Austrians Elisabeth Goergl and Nicole Hosp were second and third.
Vonn, in her comeback season after two major knee surgeries knocked her out of the Sochi Olympics, matched Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell‘s women’s record for number of World Cup season titles in one discipline.
“I was happy with just a few wins [this season], but to actually get a globe is more than I had hoped for,” Vonn told media in Meribel.
Vonn also moved within one of the record for total season titles across all disciplines and the overall. She can match Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark‘s 19 if she wins the super-G on Thursday.
“Another day, another opportunity,” Vonn said.
Vonn, 30, won six straight downhill season titles from 2008 through 2013 before missing most of last season due to her knee injuries.
She entered Wednesday with a 35-point lead over Anna Fenninger in the downhill season standings, after seven of eight races. Fenninger skied before Vonn on Wednesday and crossed the finish line in fourth place. That meant all Vonn needed was to finish 15th to wrap up the season title.
Vonn goes into Thursday’s super-G with an eight-point lead on Fenninger. If both Vonn and Fenninger finish in the top four, whoever has the higher finish will take that crystal globe.
In this year’s overall title standings, Tina Maze moved to within 12 points of leader and defending champion Fenninger with three races remaining. Maze finished fourth Wednesday; Fenninger eighth.
Earlier Wednesday, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won the men’s downhill and clinched the season title, adding to his super-G crown. Steven Nyman was the top American in fourth.
Jansrud moved to 64 points behind Austrian Marcel Hirscher for the overall title and could move into the lead after Thursday’s super-G. Hirscher’s best events — giant slalom and slalom — are Saturday and Sunday.