American skier Lindsey Vonn showed she is back in form, winning a World Cup downhill for her first victory in six weeks.

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Vonn takes downhill

Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo., showed she is back in form Saturday, winning a World Cup downhill for her first victory in six weeks.

The four-time overall champion, who recently took 27 days off to regain her strength from an intestinal illness, had a winning time of 1 minute, 38.25 seconds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Overall leader Tina Maze of Slovenia finished second, 0.43 seconds behind, and Leanne Smith of North Conway, N.H., was third.

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“It was a great feeling today, to come down and see number one next to my name again was incredible,” the 28-year-old Vonn said. “It has been a hard couple of weeks trying to get my strength back and trying to get my confidence back.”

Innerhofer triumphs

Christof Innerhofer of Italy won a downhill event in Wengen, Switzerland, where Johan Clarey of France set a World Cup speed record of 100.6 mph.

Innerhofer zoomed 2.74 miles in 2 minutes, 29.82 seconds.

Clarey, who placed fifth, clocked the fastest speed recorded in competition in the 46-year history of the World Cup. He did it about two minutes into his run.

The previous mark was 99.3 mph, set earlier in the race by Canadian Benjamin Thomsen.

Motor sports

Frenchmen prevail

Defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres of France won titles again in the Dakar Rally in Santiago, Chile.

Peterhansel, leading the race since the second stage Jan. 6, became the most successful driver in the Dakar Rally with his fifth victory in the car category to go along with a record six on a motorbike.

Peterhansel beat 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa by 42 minutes, 22 seconds.

Despres won his fifth motorbike title. He finished 10:43 ahead of Ruben Faria of Portugal.


Barcelona loses

Ten-man FC Barcelona lost its first match of the Spanish-league season, squandering a two-goal lead in a 3-2 setback at Real Sociedad and allowing an injury-time winner by Imanol Agirretxe.

Barcelona set a league record with 18 victories and one draw at the midpoint of the season.

Horse racing

Wise Dan is honored

Wise Dan was voted North America’s 2012 Horse of the Year and also earned top honors in the older-male and male-turf categories at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Wise Dan won five of six starts as a 5-year-old gelding last year, including three Grade I victories at a mile on turf. He is the first gelding to be voted Horse of the Year since John Henry (1981 and 1984).

Wise Dan got 194 votes for Horse of the Year, compared with 30 for runner-up I’ll Have Another, last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. I’ll Have Another was voted champion 3-year-old male.

College athletics

NCAA seeks to simplify

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors took a step toward trying to simplify and deregulate the organization’s often complex and sometimes unenforceable rules.

On the final day of the NCAA convention in Grapevine, Texas, the board approved 25 of 26 proposals in what is considered the most sweeping deregulation of the organization’s rulebook at one time.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, previously the University of Washington president, called it a singular accomplishment to make changes that “set a completely new tone” for the rules. He said they will give schools more responsibility and flexibility and “focus the rules on those things that are real threats to integrity of sport rather than things that are mostly annoying.”

Athletes will be able to accept up to $300 per year beyond normal expenses to attend nonscholastic events, and receive money to help offset expenses associated with practices and competition with national teams, including tryouts.


• Former sumo grand champion Taiho, whose 32 championships are the most in the history of Japan’s ancient sport, died of heart disease Saturday in a Tokyo hospital. Taiho, whose real name was Koki Naya, was 72.

Seattle Times news services