Swiss ski racer Fabienne Suter won the women's downhill World Cup contest in Bulgaria on Friday, besting overall leader Lindsey Vonn for her first win of the season.This content was published on February 27, 2009 - 17:13
Suter finished the race in one minute, 45.68 seconds. Austria's Andrea Fischbacher took second, at 1.15 seconds behind. Vonn, from the United States, tied for third with Italy's Nadia Fanchini, at 1.24 seconds back.
The 24-year-old from central Switzerland had cemented herself as a favourite to win after strong performances during practice runs. She has had only one top-ten finish in the event before.
"I was extremely nervous because I had never been in the role of a favourite," Suter said after the race. "The course is very steep and winding, which suits my style."
The victory in Bansko adds a bit of sweetness to Suter's career. She has logged three second-place finishes before but all of them in super-G, her strongest discipline.
Suter now stands in sixth place in the overall World Cup standings and ninth in the downhill after five of seven races.
Among the other Swiss racers, Lara Gut took fifth place, 1.46 seconds behind Suter. Fränzi Aufdenblatten was eighth (+2.34 seconds) and Martina Schild finished 15th (+3.14).
Firsts all around
Friday's race was the first World Cup race to be held in Bansko, a resort in the 2,700m Pirin mountains, 160km south of the capital, Sofia. Bansko is trying to position itself as an up-and-coming ski destination.
The World Cup downhill there replaced an earlier event in St Moritz that had to be cancelled after heavy snowfall.
Conditions proved challenging for some as the sun disappeared behind clouds to cast low contrast and poor visibility across the bumpy course, set on an icy run dubbed "Tomba" after Italian great Alberto Tomba.
"It was tough with the flat light but it was really exciting to go for it," Suter said. "It's hard to say why I had a good lead. I suppose I just had a good race."
Suter seemed to benefit from a bit of sunshine at moments, too. She was the fifth racer down the course.
A Swedish racer, Anja Pärson, had complained about the race's narrow gates, which benefited Suter's style. Vonn, of the United States, crashed on the course during a practice run but suffered only a sore back.
"I'm really relieved because this was a big fight with myself," said Vonn, who is still recuperating from thumb she slashed on a bottle while celebrating at the World Championships in Val d'Isère, France, earlier this month.
"The goal was to make it to the end and score points."
Friday's finish helped Vonn in that quest as she leads the overall World Cup standings with 1,434 points after 26 of 34 races. Her closest rival for that title is Maria Riesch of Germany, who lags behind by 346 points. Pärson, who did not finish Friday's race, dropped to a distant third with 960 points.
A second downhill takes place in Bulgaria on Saturday.
swissinfo with agencies
Overall downhill standings