Lindsey Vonn celebrates a convincing victory at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals in Meribel, collecting her 18th crystal globe, winning the downhill title over Austria's Anna Fenninger. (Getty Images/AFP-Jeff Pachoud)
MERIBEL, France (March 18, 2015) - Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) began the finale of her comeback season in high style Wednesday, scoring a convincing victory and claiming her 18th career crystal globe in winning the Audi FIS Ski World Cup downhill title. Vonn was flawless under the clear blue skies, skiing to a .24 second victory over Austria's Elisabeth Goergl.
Vonnn brought a 35 point lead over Fenninger into the final, essentially needing to stay ahead of the Austrian. Fenninger skied 16th, one spot before Vonn, and had a troubling run to drop into fourth. All Vonn needed was a top-15 to take the title. But she went out charging in the soft snow to move into a convincing lead. Goergl was the only challenger and couldn't top Vonn. Slovenia's Tina Maze was fourth, narrowing the gap behind Fenninger to just 12 points for the overall - a battle that is expected to go down to the final race this week.
Lindsey Vonn shows off her 18th crystal globe after winning World Cup Finals downhill in Meribel. (Getty Images/AFP-Jeff Pachoud)
It was an emotional finish for Vonn, who suffered a catastrophic injury mid-season in 2013. It was her seventh World Cup downhill title and 18th crystal globe. Despite her injury in 2013, Vonn still won the downhill title that season, her sixth straight at the time.
"I'm so proud," said Vonn. "This is the most meaningful globe I’ve ever won. It’s incredible after being out for two years with two major knee operations to come back here and get the downhill title - it means so much to me. I want to thank everyone who helped me get back here."
Vonn had been concerned coming into the Finals that she had not skied in Meribel, having missed the preview World Cup two years ago. She skipped last weekend's technical races in Sweden to spend extra time training at Meribel, which was the site of the women's races at the 1992 Olympics. The strategy paid off as she skied with confidence in springtime conditions.
Lindsey Vonn shreds a turn to win the downhill at World Cup Finals. (Getty Images/AFP-Phillipe Desmazes)
"It was pretty soft but I like skiing in the spring. It’s a fun time to be skiing. I pushed myself today and I’m really happy with the win."
Vonn now has her sights set on a second title, holding a very slim eight point margin over Fenninger going into Thursday's super G.
Lindsey Vonn won the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals downhill to take the season title.
It was Vonn's seventh downhill crown and 18th crystal globe.
Vonn will challenge Austria's Anna Fenninger for a second globe in Thursday's super G. Vonn holds a slim eight point lead over the Austrian.
Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO) capped off a strong comeback season, finishing 12th. Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA) was 14th. Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) did not finish.
Downhill title winners Lindsey Vonn and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway pose with their crystal globes. (Getty Images/AFP-Jeff Pachoud)
QUOTES Lindsey Vonn This is the most meaningful globe I’ve ever won. This is what I’ve been working so hard for over the last two years. It’s incredible after being out for two years with two major knee operations to come back here and get the downhill title - it means so much to me. I’m so proud. I want to thank everyone who helped me get back here.
It was pretty soft but I like skiing in the spring. It’s a fun time to be skiing. I pushed myself today and I’m really happy with the win.
Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity. But I’m really optimistic. It’s a good track for me and I like the snow conditions.
I just took a week off. All week I’ve had a good feeling - it’s a good course for me. I’m fresh and optimistic, not typical of me for the end of the season.