ASPEN, Colo. — Immediately after crossing the finish line, Lindsey Vonn collapsed to the snow in complete exhaustion.
Her stamina gone, Vonn simply couldn’t make up ground on winner Tina Maze, of Slovenia, in a World Cup giant slalom race Saturday. Vonn finished 21st in her return after missing time with an intestinal illness.
Then again, given the way Maze has been racing of late, no one was going to catch her. She used a blazing final run to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 59.39 seconds to hold off Kathrin Zettel, of Austria, by nearly a second. Viktoria Rebensburg, of Germany, was third.
The 29-year-old Maze also won the season-opening GS race in Soelden, Austria, last month, with Zettel taking second there, too.
“I feel like people are watching me now, more than before,” said Maze, who did a cartwheel after the win. “I’d like it to continue this way.”
All eyes were on Vonn, too, just to see how she performed after a bad stomach bug recently landed her in the hospital.
Vonn was 10th after the first run, but didn’t have anything left in the tank for the second pass through the challenging course.
The more the four-time overall champion tried to attack the hill, the more snow she sent flying in every direction and the more speed she lost.
“I didn’t have the energy I needed to really be competitive,” said Vonn, who earned her first World Cup points of the season. “It’s been a real fight to even be able to race today. I didn’t have it.
“I’m a competitor. This isn’t exactly the kind of result I was hoping for. But I have to still keep things in perspective and realize that I was very sick just a few days ago. I’m just happy to be racing again.”
Her strength has been completely wiped out by the virus, which is finally responding to antibiotics. Until Saturday, she hadn’t made it through a full GS run since the bug hit without pulling off to the side out of breath.
This definitely helps with her confidence.
“Eventually, on a course like this, it’s all going to catch up with you,” said Vonn, who will skip the slalom Sunday to conserve energy. “Your whole body is going to shut down at some point. I just have to stay positive and keep building.”
MEN’S DOWNHILL: In Lake Louise, Alberta, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal won the season-opening World Cup men’s downhill Saturday, beating Austria’s Max Franz by 0.64 seconds.
Svindal finished the Olympic course in 1 minute, 48.31 seconds.
American Marco Sullivan and Austria’s Klaus Kroell tied for third at 1:48.97.
The men’s super-G race is today. Svindal won that race last year.
SKI JUMP: In Lillehammer, Norway, Severin Freund of Germany won the season-opening ski jump World Cup event on Saturday for the third individual victory of his career.
The 24-year-old didn’t have the longest jump but impressed the judges with his style, giving him a total score of 268.5 points after leaping 99 meters in the first round on the normal hill and 100.5 in the second.
Austria’s Thomas Morgenstern jumped 102 meters in the second but settled for second place with 267.2 points, while defending overall champion Anders Bardal of Norway was third with 267.
In the women’s event, Sara Takanashi of Japan scored 265.2 points to win ahead of American defending overall champion Sarah Hendrickson, who had 261.4. Anette Sagen of Norway was third with 258.9.