Vail’s Vonn looks to regain confidence
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn is smiling again.
The two-time overall World Cup champion is ready to put shaky technical races behind her and get back to her favorite speed races – the super-G and downhill.
“I’m definitely happy to be back doing speed. It was a pretty disappointing week,” Vonn said. “But that’s all behind me now. I think it’s going to be a good way for me to get my confidence back up before the Olympics.”
The upcoming races in Cortina, Italy, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, are the final women’s events before the Vancouver Olympics open Feb. 12.
Vonn won three straight speed events this month, but has been struggling in technical events since hurting her left arm in a crash in late December in the giant slalom.
Vonn failed to finish two races and didn’t qualify for the second run of a slalom Sunday in Maribor, Slovenia. The poor stretch allowed rival Maria Riesch of Germany to take the lead in the overall standings, 922-894.
“I was definitely really, really tired in Maribor” Vonn said. “But I had two days off and I didn’t do anything and I feel really good now.”
Vonn led Thursday’s final downhill training session by a large margin and will be the favorite in Friday’s super-G race and Saturday’s downhill. She’ll attempt to get her technical skiing back on track in Sunday’s giant slalom.
Vonn registered the first podium finish of her career in Cortina six years ago, and has six top-three finishes overall at the premier stop on the women’s circuit.
“I have some really good memories and hopefully I can make some more this weekend,” Vonn said. “It’s so much fun here. The snow is always perfect. It’s usually sunny. It’s just exactly what I need right now to get my mind back on track.”
Vonn has won all four downhills this season.
“There will come a day when she can’t keep the series going, but I don’t know if it’s here,” Riesch said. “I don’t know if I can stop her. At the moment, it seems like she’ll never lose a downhill race again.”
Riesch has mixed memories of the Olympia delle Tofane course, which slices through spectacular jagged peaks in the heart of the Italian Dolomite Range. She had a season-ending crash in Cortina in 2005 and posted a super-G victory in 2008.
Swedish standout Anja Paerson has stepped up her form lately despite lingering knee problems. She is seeking her first victory of the season. Paerson finished second to Vonn in the last super-G, and considers that her best event.
“My super-G is really strong. As long as I keep a high line and try not to be faster than I am, then I win the races,” said Paerson, who pushed too hard and failed to finish the season’s opening two super-G’s.
Paerson’s teammate, Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, won the super-G in Cortina last year but is still struggling to regain her form after a crash in downhill training at last year’s world championships. She later had knee surgery.
Dominique Gisin, the Swiss skier who beat Vonn in last year’s downhill, is sidelined because of knee surgery.
Kathrin Zettel of Austria is the defending champion in giant slalom and will be the favorite after sweeping the two technical races last weekend.
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