Lindsey Vonn is no longer perfect in downhill races, and that fact might help her win an Olympic title.
Vonn, the world champion and two-time World Cup titleholder in Alpine skiing's glamor speed event, is now a mere 5-for-6 over the season. She placed fifth on the Corviglia piste Saturday, trailing Germany's Maria Riesch by 1.21 seconds.
"I was hoping to continue on with the series, but everything has to come to an end and no one's perfect," Vonn reflected.
The 25-year-old American had a six-race win streak going, taking in her victory at the final downhill last season.
Vonn's rare defeat, undone by hitting a pitted hole in the snow, could yet be perfect preparation for the Vancouver Olympics if she fulfills her status as pre-race favorite in the downhill on Feb. 17.
"I do think it helps a little bit going into the Olympics that I haven't won all the World Cups," she said. "Maybe that takes a little of the pressure off me.
"As soon as you get wrapped up in records and those kinds of things, you always get distracted."
The deserved victory Saturday for her best friend and biggest rival ended talk of Vonn matching Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell, who swept all eight downhills in the 1972-73 season.
Riesch dominated with a Vonn-like 0.79-second victory margin and spoke of getting a morale boost so close to the Olympics.
"It's an important success for me, to have the feeling that I can win," said Riesch, three times a runner-up during Vonn's six wins.
The Swiss team had talked of needing Vonn to make mistakes in Vancouver that would spread doubt. But the Minnesota native's self-confidence was not dented by defeat.
"It also makes me more hungry. I know everyone's out there and they're all trying to win," Vonn said.
The loss also came with an explanation.
Vonn matched Riesch's time at the first split, then her left ski caught a trap created during racing in Friday's super-combined event.
"I knew the hole was there. It was definitely dangerous," Vonn said. "But when I was on-course, the light was so flat I couldn't see anything. I lost my direction and barely made my next gate. I was pretty close to going out there."
The trouble spot, coming off a tight right-hand turn, also got Tina Maze of Slovenia. The 2008 St. Moritz winner was taken so far down the hill she thought she'd missed a gate and skied casually to the finish. Switzerland's Nadja Kamer, twice on the podium with Vonn this month, went way too wide and was disqualified.
Vonn, though unhappy with the course, did not lose her grace in praising Riesch, who made a bad error in the super-combi and lost ground in their race for the overall World Cup title.
"I'm happy for (Maria)," said Vonn, who now leads Riesch by 61 points. "For her to come back and have the win today was really cool."
Her focus quickly turned to Sunday's super-G _ the final race before the Olympics _ and keeping a safe distance from teammates' germs.
"There's a lot of sick girls on our team. I'm trying to stay away from them as much as I can," Vonn joked.