Under horrible lighting conditions and an icy, choppy ski slope in the mountains of France, Lindsey Vonn proved something to the world that she's known she was capable of accomplishing for quite some time. Vonn won the world championship in the super-G at the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in Val d'Isere, France Tuesday.
"It was a struggle the whole way," she said during a teleconference Tuesday. "From top to bottom, I was just fighting the whole way."
With the win, Vonn becomes the first American woman to win a world championship in the super-G. She did it with a time of 1:20.73 - just .34 seconds ahead of the second-place skier, who was from France. It Vonn's first gold medal in any world championship event, as she had two silver medals in 2007.
"Today was just an amazing day," said Vonn, a two-time Olympian who lives in Vail, Colo. "It was tough conditions, the light was changing and it was difficult to see the terrain. ... I'm so happy and thankful I was able to come down. I had a good plan and I skied with my heart. I gave it everything I had. ... I honestly didn't think I was going to do it today."
Vonn said the terrain required a lot of technical skiing, but poor light made it difficult to see what was up ahead on the course. She was the 21st skier to go, and 16 racers didn't finish at all.
"It was just really, really challenging," she said. "I didn't know if it was possible."
Vonn's win puts her in some elite company. She was the first American woman in 25 years to win an overall world cup title last season, and she was also the downhill champion. With Tuesday's win, she becomes the most successful downhill skier in American History. The victory was her third in five days as she won the slalom on Friday and super-G on Sunday in World Cup races. With one more win she will become the winningest skier in history.
Vonn told reporters she hoped her world championship would provide the confidence and the momentum she'd need to win a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics.
"I feel like winning a world championship was a hurdle I had to get over," Vonn said. "It proves I can perform in a big event like this or the Olympics."
She said it also helps that she's had to deal with so much media attention this season.
"There are more expectations, more media than ever in my career," she said. "I think that's because I won the overall... but I feel I've been able to handle the pressure. ... I hope to take that confidence into the Olympics."
She said she took a moment when she was in the start gate Tuesday to savor the feeling, to try to remember how it felt to be in the position of winning a world championship. She took the time to take note of how confident she felt, how focused. Once she'd crossed the finish line, she wasn't sure what the result would be.
"When I saw I was in the lead, I was so shocked," she said. "I was so happy. ... Winning a world championship, I feel I have somewhat of a monkey off my back."
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