By ANDREW DAMPF
AP Sports Writer
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy
The four-time overall champion defeated overall leader Tina Maze by nearly a half-second.
Vonn, who recently took 27 days off to regain her strength from an intestinal illness, clocked 1 minute, 38.25 seconds down the sun-drenched Olympia delle Tofane course.
Maze finished second, 0.43 seconds behind, and Vonn’s American teammate Leanne Smith was third, 0.89 back.
In her first races back last weekend in St. Anton, Austria, Vonn finished sixth and fourth in a downhill and super-G, respectively.
This time, there was no stopping her.
Wearing a rainbow-colored race suit, Vonn made a slight error midway down and nearly touched her right hip to the snow. But she had the strength to regain her balance and keep charging.
The race was held in perfect conditions, with temperatures well below the freezing mark making for hard snow and clear skies allowing fans to marvel at the jagged snow-dusted peaks, which are some of the most spectacular in the Dolomite Range.
Vonn earned her seventh win in Cortina and the 58th of her career, moving within four of the all-time record held by Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Proell.
Vonn’s last win was a super-G was Dec. 8 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
For Maze, it was her first podium of the season in downhill _ having already registered wins in three other disciplines.
Maze extended her massive lead in the overall standings to 670 points ahead of Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who lost control toward the end of her run and did not finish.
Vonn holds a 129-point lead over teammate Stacey Cook in the downhill standings, with Maze 151 points back in third.
Smith earned her second podium of her career after finishing second last month in a downhill in Val d’Isere, France.
With Alice McKennis having won in St. Anton last weekend and Cook finishing second to Vonn twice in Lake Louise, Alberta, at the start of the season, it’s the first time four different American women have reached the podium in downhill in a single campaign.
The other American finishers Saturday were Julia Mancuso in ninth, McKennis 11th, Cook 15th and Laurenne Ross 27th.
A super-G is scheduled in Cortina on Sunday, a race Vonn has won the last three years.