Lindsey Vonn retains downhill lead despite finishing equal sixth in World Cup comeback
Fellow American Alice McKennis wins the first World Cup race of her career in Austria
Slovakia's Tina Maze extends her overall World Cup lead with fourth place at St. Anton
American Ted Ligety leads giant slalom standings after winning in Switzerland on Saturday
Lindsey Vonn made her comeback to the World Cup skiing circuit on Saturday, but was upstaged by fellow American Alice McKennis in her favored downhill event at St. Anton in Austria.
Olympic champion Vonn had missed almost four weeks of action, deciding to take a break due to an intestinal illness which has ruined her chances of retaining her overall World Cup crown.
The 28-year-old returned to the piste just days after her divorce from fellow skiing star Thomas Vonn was finalized, having been separated for more than a year, but had to take a back seat as McKennis claimed her maiden World Cup race victory.
The 23-year-old headed off Italy’s second-placed Daniela Merighetti and Austria’s Anna Fenninger, who was third.
“It’s totally shocking for me. I had hoped to be top 10,” McKennis told the U.S. Ski Team website.
“I had one of the best runs I’ve ever had. I’ve never been here before but I knew what I had to do. It’s a really tough course. I had to be really aggressive the whole way and never back off. If you do, it will take control of you.
“I’m a little overwhelmed but extremely happy. It’s a dream come true – something you think about as a little kid growing up.”
Read: Vonn vows to fight on in bid to race men
Slovenia’s Tina Maze was fourth ahead of another American, Laurenne Ross, to extend her overall World Cup lead to 490 points.
Vonn was sixth equal with Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin, but stayed at the top of the downhill standings – leading compatriot Stacey Cook by 45 points after four of eight races.
“It makes me proud to be a part of a great bunch of girls. For me, I’m just happy to be back,” said Vonn, who missed six events – three slaloms, two giant slaloms and a parallel slalom – but will be back in action for Sunday’s Super G race.
“It was definitely tough conditions. The course workers did a great job – I almost didn’t think it was possible to run today,” she said after the course was shortened due to heavy overnight snow.
“I made some mistakes but I felt good and I felt my skiing was where it should be.”
It was a good day for American skiers, with Ted Ligety triumphing in the men’s giant slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland.
It left him top of the giant slalom standings ahead of overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher.
The Austrian led the first run and most of the second before hitting a gate and finishing 16th, ending his run of podium placings.
“Marcel Hirscher won this race here today, he was ahead big time but I guess I’ll take it as it is,” Ligety said after his first win at a venue where Hirscher won both slaloms in 2012.
” But I have given away some of these gift victories in the past, so somehow things always even out in the end. I am very happy to win here today, it has been a hill that I have struggled with my whole career and today finally I can go home with a win.”
It left Ligety in third place overall, 103 points behind Hirscher and 77 behind Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
Felix Neureuther is fourth after finishing third at Adelboden behind fellow German Fritz Dopfer.