Shiffrin takes up US mantle as tearful Vonn ready to retire immediately

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


American ace Mikaela Shiffrin stormed to an 11th World Cup win of the season on Sunday, clinching a thrilling Super G at Cortina d'Ampezzo to take up the mantle of veteran speed queen Lindsey Vonn who tearfully declared she was ready to retire immediately after failing to finish the race.

Shiffrin, 23, snatched her third win out of four Super G races this season claiming her 54th career win by 0.16 sec on Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather with Austria's Tamara Tippler third at 0.18.

The 34-year-old Vonn missed a gate and skied off the piste after a disappointing three days in the Italian Dolomites as she returns from a knee injury.

Vonn conceded things had not gone as she had expected on the Olimpia Delle Tofane piste where she took her first podium place back in 2004 and won a record 12 times -- six Super G and six downhill.

Instead, hampered by two knee braces, she struggled into 15th and ninth place in the two downhill races.

"I was hoping for more amazing memories but things didn't go as I expected," she said tearfully.

Vonn ended up off course by punching through a panel and was comforted in the finish zone by Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia, who gave her a bunch of flowers.

"I hadn't planned to be here," said Goggia, who did not compete this week as she recovers from an ankle injury.

"But this morning I woke up at 6.30 and decided that I couldn't miss Lindsey Vonn's last race on Olympia. I think I must have broken all the speed limits because I got here so quickly.

"She was crying at the finish. We don't really appreciate just how great a sporting icon Lindsey Vonn is.

"It's something we can tell our children in fifty years."

An emotional Vonn later told journalists that it was a "possibility" that her 19-year career would end immediately.

The skier from Minnesota, who has 82 World Cup wins, had been targetting Ingemar Stenmark's record of 86, before retiring in Lake Louise, Canada next December, where she has a record 18 wins.

"I really don't know what to think at this point. Definitely it isn't the way I had hoped that things would go."

"There's only so much my body can take.

"My body is inhibiting me for doing what I want to do. I'm just not able to ski the way I want to and know I can.

"I'm going to give it a couple of days and make some decisions."

- Shiffrin keeps rolling -

Two-time Olympic champion Shiffrin, meanwhile, closed in on the record of 14 wins in a single season set by Vreni Schneider in 1989.

"It's great that there's another American on top of the podium," said Vonn, whose last World Cup win was in Are, Sweden last March.

Shiffrin however brushed aside talk of being Vonn's heir.

"I don't necesarily think there's some incredible connection," said Shiffrin of her standing on top of the podium on Vonn's final race.

"She's been inspiring for a lot of racers and athletes coming up in the US team and around the world," she continued.

"My first race ever I remember thinking 'this is crazy I'm racing Lindsey Vonn', taking everything in and trying to catch the vibe, it was supercool experience and very inspiring for me."

Double overall World Cup winner Shiffrin said she was skiing with less pressure this season, as she leads the overall, giant slalom, slalom and Super G standings.

"Last year I felt more pressure and expections, this year has changed," said the skiier from Colorado.

"I have really big goals but I'm not afraid of them.

"I'm finding this balance of no pressure, just fun and good skiing. I'm in a phase like just 'keep rolling'."

Despite the clear blue skies and ideal conditions 23 competitors failed to finish the race.

Among those who skied off were Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer, who completed a downhill double on Friday and Saturday, along with Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, winner in Cortina two years ago, and Swiss duo Lara Gut and Michelle Gisin.