Vonn completes 1st World Cup training since crash
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Ten months since she last competed, Lindsey Vonn returned to a World Cup course for downhill training Wednesday and said afterward her surgically repaired right knee felt “stable.”
Vonn said she will decide after the training run scheduled for Thursday whether to race this week for the first time since a high-speed crash at the world championships in February tore two ligaments in her knee and broke a bone in her lower leg.
There are downhills slated for Friday and Saturday, and a super-G on Sunday at a mountain where Vonn has earned 14 of her 59 career World Cup race wins. That includes three-victory sweeps in both 2011 and 2012.
“It was my first run, so I was, of course, a little bit nervous,” the four-time overall World Cup champion and 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist said.
“First training run. First kind of real race situation since February,” Vonn added. “So it’s been a long time, and I’m really happy.”
As for her knee, the one in which she partially re-tore one of those reconstructed ligaments in a fall last month during practice?
“Knee feels good. Feels stable,” Vonn said. “And, you know, just going to play it by ear tomorrow and make a decision on the race.”
The biggest factor for Friday will be making sure there’s no swelling in her right knee so it won’t affect her thigh’s ability to react and “fire appropriately,” Vonn said.
The temperature dropped below zero during training, and she sniffled occasionally as she spoke near the finish line.
The American covered the course in 1 minute, 59.53 seconds, the 22nd-fastest time among the 65 skiers who finished Wednesday.
“She had a solid run. Just skied a bit of a conservative line, but everything was solid and she felt good, so we’re pleased with how today went,” said Chip White, head coach of the U.S. women’s speed team.
“We haven’t seen her at inspection for a while now, so it was great to see her back in the mix,” White said. “Kind of like having the family back together.”
Carolina Ruiz Castillo of Spain was fastest in training at 1:57.40, followed by past overall World Cup champions Hoefl-Riesch in 1:57.41, and Tina Maze of Slovenia in 1:58.06. Current overall World Cup leader Lara Gut of Switzerland was fifth, Cook was sixth, Mancuso ninth, and Smith 28th.
What mattered to Vonn more than her time was that she was out there. She was quick out of the start, then lost time as she progressed down the slope in the Canadian Rockies.
Vonn, who was 10th out of the gate Wednesday and will start from that same spot Thursday, said she “can’t really put a percentage on” how hard she was trying to charge in her debut and repeatedly acknowledged feeling jitters about getting back on a World Cup slope. She had hoped to return last week at Beaver Creek, Colo., not far from her home in Vail, but her setback from the crash on Nov. 19 scrapped those plans.
She told The Associated Press last weekend that she needs another operation on her right knee but is trying to put it off as long as possible in order to be able to ski at the Sochi Olympics, which begin in a little more than two months.
Asked Wednesday how much she’s thinking about Sochi, Vonn said she has to worry about more immediate matters.
“I’m just trying to make sure things are good with my knee, and build confidence every day, and right now I’m focused on this particular moment,” she said. “Yeah, Sochi is obviously quite a way’s away. Just trying to stay focused and focus on my knee and get my confidence back.”
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich