TARVISIO, Italy — After a season that was by turns demanding and depressing, Lindsey Vonn finally found some relief.
She plopped on her back after crossing the finish line Friday and danced with her skis in the air, having successfully defended her World Cup super-combined title. It was a joyous moment in a season interrupted by a concussion that forced her to withdraw during the world championships.
"It's been an emotional roller-coaster," Vonn said. "I just had to put it all on the line today and I did that, and that's why I'm so happy and so proud of myself. It's been a hard season in slalom, and I put one down there and I risked everything and it paid off."
Vonn finished second to Slovenia's Tina Maze in the season's third and final super-combined, a result that gave the American enough points to clinch the crystal globe, the 10th World Cup championship of her career.
She finished with 220 points in the super-combi standings. Maze's victory lifted her to second with 212 points. Germany's Maria Riesch, the leader coming into the race, dropped to third with 205.
Riesch, however, still leads Vonn by 176 points in the overall standings. She is positioned to end Vonn's run of three consecutive overall titles with only two more stops on the circuit following this weekend.
"I got some good points today," Riesch said. "It wasn't enough for the globe, which is a little bit sad, but I didn't have a great slalom run and Lindsey deserved it today."
Maze, fifth after the downhill leg, produced a blistering slalom for a combined time of 2 minutes, 13.54 seconds. Vonn was 0.18 behind and Riesch 0.55 back in third.
Maze was a popular winner, with the Slovenia border only about a 10-minute drive away.
"I've been saying that Tarvisio was like my home race this season since Maribor was canceled," said Maze, who took silver in super-combi at last month's world championships. "A lot of fans came across the border today, and even my dog, Mik, came to watch me for the first time – and he brought me gold."
Vonn held a 0.42-second lead over Riesch after the downhill leg. Maze had the fastest slalom run. Riesch, the Olympic and reigning World Cup slalom champion, was 0.92 behind and Vonn was third fastest, 0.97 back.
"When it comes down to essentially one run of slalom for the title, you have to like Maria's chances. She's been killing it all year," said Thomas Vonn, Lindsey Vonn's husband and chief adviser. "It really is a confidence-builder to win a title on a slalom run. It's going to give her a big boost and I think it's going to help her through the end of the season."
Just a couple of weeks ago, Vonn pulled out of the second half of worlds to recover from her concussion, her confidence wavering.
"I went to a wellness hotel in Austria but I honestly didn't even do any wellness, I just sat in my hotel room," she said. "It was pretty depressing to watch the world championships on TV, but I did watch."
Now Vonn is poised to wrap up two more discipline titles in Saturday's downhill and Sunday's super-G, while at the same time keeping alive her slim chances for the overall crown.
"After that time off I'm just trying to come back and really finish the season strong," she said. "I have nothing to lose and I'm going into every race with that mentality and so far it's paying off."
Vonn's American teammates also appear on the rise, with all four finishing in the top 20 Friday.
Julia Mancuso was sixth and Leanne Smith was ninth for the best super-combined result of her career. World Cup rookie Laurenne Ross was 19th and Stacey Cook dropped to 20th after posting the eighth-fastest downhill run.
"The team did a fantastic job today," U.S. coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. "Julia had a great slalom run, being ninth in a combined is a great result for Leanne. That's really cool to see that the whole team is stepping up."