VAL D'ISERE, France (AP) — Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland earned her first World Cup victory on Saturday by winning a women's downhill that was marked by a number of big crashes and Lindsey Vonn skiing out and then clutching her injured right knee in pain.
Kaufmann-Abderhalden followed up her second-place finish in a downhill in Lake Louise this month by clocking 1 minute, 47.28 seconds to beat defending overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia by 0.29 seconds.
"It was the first win, but the season began very well for me in Beaver (Creek) and Lake Louise. I had three very good downhill races," Kaufmann-Abderhalden said. "I have done a lot of hard work since the summer, a lot of physical training. "
Vonn, who had boyfriend Tiger Woods watching on in the finish area, seemed to suffer a setback when she lost her balance and her left ski went up in the air, putting all her weight on her surgically repaired right knee as she skied off course. She didn't fall but grimaced as she pulled up, clutching her knee in a worrying sign ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
Vonn needed surgery in February to reconstruct two knee ligaments after a crash at the world championships, and then partially re-tore one of them in November. "I didn't hurt myself more than I'm already hurt," Vonn said. "It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I tried to pressure the ski again and it gave out again. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately."
Vonn, however, remains optimistic that she can be ready for Sochi. "I'm going to stick to a similar plan that I was on before. I just need to be more careful of how many races I do," she said. "I'm at risk of doing more damage to my knee and my meniscus. So I'm going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics."
She thinks her next race will be "sometime in January." It was only the 27-year-old Kaufmann-Abderhalden's fourth career podium finish, and she even considered retiring before getting her first one in March 2010.
"Yes, that was a hard time for me and I didn't know what to do," Kaufmann-Abderhalden said. "Then came Crans Montana and I had that first podium and I thought 'Wow, it's not so bad, I can ski very well.'"
Cornelia Huetter of Austria was third, 0.52 seconds back. The 21-year-old Huetter's previous best was seventh in downhill at Lake Louise two weeks ago. "It was really unexpected, so it was an awesome day for me," she said. "I haven't realized it yet. I think it will take two or three days to realize it."
Frenchwoman Marie Marchand-Arvier landed heavily on her right shoulder after her skis crossed behind her, forcing the race to be stopped for about 15 minutes. Then, American Stacey Cook flew into the safety netting, holding the race up again. Cook appeared unharmed as she climbed back to her feet after a few moments.
"It was not so easy, as it was a little bit bumpy," Huetter said. "So you had to be on the front of your skis." Former World Cup winner Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany struggled on the top section and finished ninth.