LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland -- On a big day for U.S. skiing, Kirsten Clark won a women's downhill race Saturday for her first World Cup victory.
"It's a dream come true," said Clark, whose previous best result was eighth place in a super-G in Germany last week. "I felt a (top-three finish) was in play this year. It was my goal at the start of the year, but by no means did I think I'd win a race."
Clark's best finish in the downhill this season had been ninth, at Lake Louise, Alberta.
She was timed Saturday in 1 minute, 27.07 seconds, giving the United States its first World Cup victory of the season by a man or woman. Two other Americans finished in the top 10 Saturday -- Picabo Street was seventh and Alaska's Megan Gerety of Anchorage finished eighth.
On to victory: Kirsten Clark goes over a bump during her victory Saturday in the women''s World Cup downhill race.
ARNO BALZARINI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
It was Street's first top-10 result in her comeback from a two-year layoff because of injury. She was just .01 seconds behind Italy's Isolde Kostner, the downhill leader this year.
France's Regine Cavagnoud, the super-G world champion, was runner-up in 1:27.41, while Germany's Petra Haltmayer was third in 1:27.71.
The last American to win a World Cup race was Daron Rahlves, who captured consecutive downhills in Norway at the end of last season. He did win the super-G at the world championships in St. Anton, Austria, this month.
With the Olympics on home snow less than a year away, the Americans have been getting consistently stronger and faster.
"One of us has always done pretty well at any given race," said Gerety, who finished fourth in super-G at the world championships. "We've gotten close to the podium and I think it was a relief, not a surprise, to finally get someone there."
Clark took advantage of an early start number and a brief sunny spell on the shortened Scalottas course.
"I was very lucky with the weather since the sun was shining when I skied," she said. "I was watching it carefully as the later skiers came down. It kept trying to peek through again, which could have altered the outcome, but it stayed cloudy. I knew I'd skied well, but I wasn't sure my time would hold up for the later skiers."
Clark was fastest in the downhill portion of the combined at the world championships.
"In St. Anton I skied well and gained confidence. It was a good sign," Clark said. "It was a sign I was definitely capable of being fast on race day, it gave me the belief I could do it."
With Kostner and world downhill silver medalist Renate Goetschl of Austria both out of the top five -- Kostner was sixth, Goetschl 12th -- the downhill title chase will continue until the season finals in Are, Sweden, on March 7-11.
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