Lindsey Vonn was vintage Vonn in a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise in Alberta on Saturday, earning her first win in nearly two years.
She screamed “Yes!” after crossing the finish line, knowing she was back for the first time since her right knee was surgically repaired.
Moreover, she led an American podium sweep, the first time that’s ever happened.
“It really couldn’t be a better day,” Vonn said.
Confident in the stability of her right knee again, the four-time overall champion aggressively charged the course and earned her 15th career win at Lake Louise.
Vonn’s teammates were right behind her, with Stacey Cook taking second and Julia Mancuso winding up third.
“I’m so excited for Lindsey. A cool day,” Cook said. “It really helps having Lindsey back, and her competitiveness and enthusiasm for the sport. It pushes us. That’s when we thrive is when we push each other.”
The day before, in Vonn’s first World Cup race in nearly a year, she wasn’t her usual aggressive self. She held back just a bit.
Not so on Saturday. Vonn took chances, like she usually does, especially here, on a course that’s been dubbed “Lake Lindsey” due to all of her success.
“It’s just finding my rhythm and finding my confidence,” she said. “I’m finally back to where I feel confident and I’m pushing the limits. I want more speed. I haven’t had that yet until today.”
That Cook and Mancuso shared the podium with her made the afternoon all the more memorable. They are all about the same age and have been with each other through the wins and the wipeouts.
“We have a good energy (on the team),” Vonn said. “We all have a great dynamic. Everyone’s excited for this season.”
It was Vonn’s first victory since Jan. 26, 2013, in Maribor, Slovenia. Less than two months later, she injured her knee in a wipeout at the world championships.
She tried to get back in time for the Sochi Games, but partially tore one of the reconstructed ligaments in a training crash in Copper Mountain, Colorado, three months before the Olympics.
Again, she attempted to get through it, only to sprain her MCL racing a downhill in France last December. A month later, she had a second surgery.
This time, she took things easier with her recovery. No need to be aggressive.
“My knee feels really good. I don’t think about my knee at all,” said Vonn, who captured downhill gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games. “I don’t ski differently because of it. I’m back to doing what I used to do.”
Vonn analyzed her downhill performance from Friday and noticed she was off her line and not pushing as hard. So she made the adjustments.
“I tried to stay deeper in my tuck, tried to be more aggressive in some turns,” she said. “I think it paid off.”
Vonn pulled within two of matching the World Cup record of 62 race victories held by the great Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria.
“It’s always something I kind of think about,” Vonn said. “It’s more to motivate me in the summer. Right now, I’m just focusing on trying to ski well.
“I’m not expecting this kind of result all the time just yet. But it definitely gives me a lot of confidence.”
Next up is a super-G on Sunday.