Lindsey’s road to the games dates back to 2013
This has been in the making since Feb. 5, 2013.
Lindsey Vonn has been working her way back to this point for five years and a few days.
Vonn was the undisputed best skier in the world on Feb. 5, 2013, when she was in the start gate for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, for the super-G.
She had won 12 races — the record for World Cup wins is 14 —the previous season in 2011-12. Vonn had already won six more races 2012-13, including wins the two previous weekends in Cortina, Italy, (downhill) and Maribor, Slovenia, (giant slalom).
And then her right knee exploded.
She tore her ACL and MCL fractured her tibia plateau. Vonn tried a comeback in late 2013 to make the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to defend her downhill title, but reinjured the knee. While her post-Schladming career has been an incredible comeback — 22 World Cup wins and two bronze medals at Worlds (2015 here in super-G and 2017 in downhill), a career for most — from a devastating injury, the triumphant return to the Olympics has been the goal.
Correcting the record
The 2018 Winter Olympics has been framed by the national media as a passing of the torch from Vonn to Mikaela Shiffrin. This is what happens in an Olympic year. You get people who only cover winter sports once every four years making convenient story lines.
The only things the two have in common are that they hail from here and they win a lot. They’re completely different skiers.
Vonn is a speedster. Downhill and super-G are her bread and butter. Yes, she has six wins in tech (four in giant slalom and two in slalom), but when she did race those events, it was for the mere purpose of picking up points for the overall, which she’s won four times. If she actually won the race, so much the better.
To date, Shiffrin is a tech queen. She has made her forays into speed, so she may be taking the Bode Miller route to rule the world. (Yes, his Bode-ness started as a tech specialist and came into speed.) We’ll see how her career develops. Shiffrin may become the next great all-around threat, competing at all World Cup stops, but she’s not there yet, and as much as the media wants the storyline, it’s not happening during the next two weeks in South Korea.
The other big difference is that while both have intense desire to win, Vonn is maniacal about it. Having destroyed just about every record out there — with the exception of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 career World Cup wins — she wants to leave her stamp on the world of skiing — Best. Ever. Period.
And don’t discount Mikaela Shiffrin’s presence in this drama. While no one would ever admit the frostiness between the two camps, Vonn knows that most view the upcoming Olympics as the Mikaela Games. Vonn’s still got it and she wants to show the world during the next two weeks.
Slow start no more
Of course, the “Mikaela’s replacing Lindsey” storyline was enhanced by Lake Louise, Alberta, in December. Shiffrin won one downhill, finished third in another and was fifth in a super-G, while Vonn had two DNFs at Lake Lindsey, of all places.
Yet, look at the last month. All of a sudden, Vonn’s locked in. In her last four downhill starts, she’s gone 2-1-1-1 between Cortina and Garmisch, Germany.
The super-G looks in place as well. Vonn finished fourth in a combined (super-G and GS) in Switzerland, despite finishing 16th in the tech portion of the race. The speed is there.
The women’s World Cup circuit went to South Korea to test the course last year. Vonn finished second to Italy’s Sofia Goggia in both the downhill and super-G. Last weekend as Vonn won both downhills in Garmisch, she edged Goggia both times.
The broadcast caught Goggia playfully jabbing Vonn with one of her ski poles and saying, “Korea.”
So here are the picks:
Women’s super-G, Friday, Feb. 16: 1. Lara Gut, Switzerland; 2. Vonn; 3. Tina Wierather, Lichtenstein.
Women’s downhill, Tuesday, Feb. 20: 1. Vonn; 2. Goggia; 3. Cornelia Huetter, Austria.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.