Alpine Skiing

Vonn third in final race as Stuhec retains downhill world title

Gold for Ilka Stuhec as Lindsey Vonn ends stellar career with bronze at the World Championships in Are, Sweden.

Lindsey Vonn raised her arms in triumph for one last time before taking a bow to rapturous applause.

In the last race of her stellar career, the American finished third in the World Championship downhill at Are behind Ilka Stuhec and Switzerland's Corinne Suter.

Waiting for her in the finish area on Sunday was Ingemar Stenmark, the only skier with more World Cup wins.

She told Eurosport afterwards, "It was probably the most nervous I've been in my life.

"I'm always full tilt and always on the limit and I was worried that I would charge too hard and not make it down in my last race. That was my worst nightmare.

"I just wanted to come down and hear the crowd roar and not crash."

Five skiers, including Olympic champion Sofia Goggia, failed to dislodge her from top spot before defending champion Stuhec produced a sensational run.

The Slovenian was three-quarters of a second up on Vonn at the midway checkpoint, and finished 0.49 seconds ahead of the 2010 Olympic downhill champion.

Suter took second, but Vonn held on to third to become the oldest female World Championship medallist in her final race.

Speedy Stuhec

On a course shortened to 1670 metres, there was no room for error.

Starting third, Vonn was behind first starter Viktoria Rebensburg on the clock early on but skied superbly on the bottom half to set the early target.

The first skier to beat her time was Stuhec who missed PyeongChang 2018 after tearing an anterior cruciate knee ligament in October 2017.

The 28-year-old returned to action at the start of this season, taking downhill and Super-G victories at Val Gardena on consecutive days in December.

And she fairly flew out of the start gate in Are, building a big lead on Vonn before clocking 1:01.74 to become the first woman to retain the title since Maria Walliser in 1989.

Stuhec told Eurosport, "I don't know what to say. I was pretty lucky with the weather.

"I've been pretty low with the injury ruling me out of the Olympics but I didn't forget how to ski fast."

Ilka Stuhec celebrates after her winning downhill run at the World Championships in Are, Sweden

Suter took bronze in Tuesday's Super-G and she went one better here, finishing 0.23s outside Stuhec's time.

But most of the attention was on Vonn who joined Aksel Lund Svindal in finishing on the podium in her last race.

Women's downhill podium (L-R): runner-up Corinne Suter, winner Ilka Stuhec, third-placed Lindsey Vonn

More history for Vonn

Vonn's tally of 82 World Cup wins - 43 of them came in downhill - is the most of any woman and just four behind Stenmark's all-time record.

Lindsey Vonn and Ingemar Stenmark after the World Championship downhill at Are

She won gold in the downhill and bronze in the Super-G at Vancouver 2010, adding another Olympic bronze in the PyeongChang downhill last year.

Today's bronze was the 34-year-old's eighth World Championship medal making her the first skier in history to win medals at six different World Championships.

But Vonn's career was about so much more than numbers.

Time and again she returned to the top of her sport after serious injury.

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Only on Tuesday, she was left battered and bruised after crashing in the Super-G.

And she told Eurosport she was delighted at coming down in one piece.

"My boyfriend and my family are very thankful I didn't end up in the fence today.

"I was happy they lowered the start. That made it easier for me, easier for my body."

Vonn said before her last race she wants to be remembered as "something more than a ski racer".

Mission accomplished.