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Vonn says she’s pain-free and ready to rock on World Cup circuit

Ski Club Vail star motivated by Sochi Olympics during grueling rehab

November 8, 2013, 1:50 pm

Vail’s Lindsey Vonn on Friday finished up a training session on Golden Peak in Vail and promptly declared herself pain-free and fully recovered from a blown right knee suffered at the World Championships in Austria last February.

Vonn said her super-G is as good as it’s ever been, but that her downhill skiing still needs some work before she returns to World Cup action Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 on the brand-new “Raptor” course at nearby Beaver Creek.

Lindsey Vonn unveils new raptor logo

Vail’s Lindsey Vonn unveils the new Raptor logo for the upcoming women’s World Cup races at Beaver Creek (Vail Valley Foundation photo).

“It would be huge for me if I could win in Beaver Creek,” said the 29-year-old Vonn. “Obviously, that’s expecting a lot with my first race back, but I feel like I don’t have any pressure honestly. I’m coming back from injury. I’m not really nervous. I don’t feel pressure.”

Vonn got in her first training on a full-length downhill course the last two days at Copper Mountain, and she hopes to get out on the new Beaver Creek course in the coming days to make up for lost training time on the track last spring.

After skipping the season-opening giant slalom (GS) in Soelden, Austria, late last month, Vonn is also taking a pass on a slalom race in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 16. Her season gets under way at Beaver Creek with three downhill training days Nov. 26-28 and the opening downhill race of the season on Friday, Nov. 29, followed by a super-G and a GS Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

“I honestly don’t feel it,” Vonn said of her knee. “I don’t do anything differently because of my knee. I’m training as if I’m 100 percent healthy, which I am, so it’s business as usual for me and it’s not getting swollen, it doesn’t hurt, and I don’t feel it.”

But she added that her Vail-based surgeon, Dr. William Sterett, hasn’t yet cleared her to ski without a knee brace.

“It’s in my best interest to play it safe, so I compromised and said as long as I don’t have to wear it for the Olympics I’ll be fine,” Vonn said. “But yeah, my knee feels really good.”

After nearly nine months of grueling rehab, Vonn said she even surprised herself a little with how quickly she’s recovered.

“Rehab is not very fun,” she said. “It’s just a lot of grinding and a lot of repetition and as many sessions as you can get in in a day. It’s tough, but I fought through it and Sochi was definitely what was burned into my brain — the thing that I was working for all summer.”

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February will be Vonn’s fourth Winter Games. As a 17-year-old in Salt Lake City in 2002, she turned in the top result for an American woman with a sixth in the combined event. Then came a devastating training crash at the Torino Games in 2006 that put her in the hospital and cost her any hope of a medal. Finally, at Vancouver in 2010, Vonn became the first American woman to win gold in the downhill, also claiming bronze in super-G.

She was injured with a bad case of “shin-bang,” or a deeply bruised shin, heading into those races at Whistler, but Vonn persevered. She admitted the pressure was enormous heading into those Games, and says it will be a totally different scenario in Sochi.

“It’s very different because I already have the gold medal, so I feel like the pressure’s off,” Vonn said. “My childhood dream has been to win a gold medal in the Olympics, and I already accomplished that, so everything from here on out is just icing on the cake.”

That includes surpassing retired Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for the all-time women’s World Cup victory mark.

“It would be really great to be able to get those four wins this year, but I’m not expecting it, and that’s not my focus,” said Vonn, who has won 59 times on the World Cup circuit, just three shy of tying Moser-Proell’s 62 wins. “My focus is definitely on Sochi.”

Asked if her pursuit of the overall World Cup mark was comparable to her boyfriend Tiger Woods’ pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record for most major wins in golf, Vonn said she wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know; we’re both chasing something,” Vonn said. “For me, I’m not really focused on that right now, and I honestly can’t speak for him and what his focus is, but it’s kind of cool and it would be great if we would both break the record. That would be pretty significant.”

A reporter followed up by asking if they’ve ever talked about it.

“Not really,” she said. “It’s one of those unspoken things.”

Vonn is not sure yet what World Cup races Woods will attend, or whether he’ll be at the Olympics.

“I’m not sure yet,” she said, adding his presence wouldn’t significantly change the dynamic for her. “We’re trying to still sort out if he’ll come to some races or not, but I don’t foresee it being a problem. I don’t know; I think it will be fine.”

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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