Vonn arrives, readies for super-G
VAIL -There’s only one drawback to Lindsey Vonn’s homecoming this week.
When the women’s World Cup hits Beaver Creek for the first time Wednesday for a super-G, the course will be routed around Golden Eagle Jump.
“I was looking forward to that,” Vonn said at a Monday news conference at the Arabelle.
With not enough snow in Val d’Isere, France, Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey stop has been extended for three more races starting with a men’s giant slalom today at 9:30 a.m. But as excited as local race fans are for getting a double dose of Ted Ligety, the buzz is on for Vonn.
Now 27, Vonn’s family moved to Vail when she was 11 to further her racing career, which appears to have gone pretty well to date. She has won everything that there is for a ski racer to win – Olympic gold, two Worlds golds, three overall World Cup crowns, nine discipline titles, wins in every discipline and 45 career victories, which puts her fourth on the all-time list for the women.
But she’s never been able to race World Cup at home in Eagle County.
“I’ve always been really jealous of the men,” Vonn said. “They always get to race Birds of Prey every year. I always have wanted to race here, so this is my … chance. I’ve never won a race in the United States before. I’m hoping to change that on Wednesday.”
Vonn enters Wednesday’s race with great success recently on the snow, but also in the wake of trying personal times. Last month, she and her husband, Thomas Vonn, announced that they were filing for divorce.
This hasn’t seemed to affect her on race days. She comes to Beaver Creek with three wins – two in downhill and one in super-G – last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta. Lake Louise has often been dubbed Lake Lindsey because Vonn always has success there to the tune of 11 victories, but last weekend bordered on the sublimely silly. She won the two downhills by 1.95 and 1.68 seconds.
“This has been the biggest test for me personally and mentally that I’ve had in my life so far,” Vonn said. “I think I proved to myself as well as everyone else this past weekend I can ski well under the most extreme circumstances. It’s something I will take with me not just for the season, but for the rest of my career.”
While she says the overall World Cup title doesn’t define success or failure in her eyes, having 422 points in the chase in the first full week of December is pretty astonishing.
“Last year, I didn’t really find my rhythm until the end of February and the beginning of March which is way too late,” she said. “This year was definitely the best way I could have started off the season.”
As well as she’s doing this year, Vonn could probably click out of her skis right now and go down as America’s best skier ever and a worldwide alpine legend. Yet she doesn’t seem to be sated. She said Monday that she appreciates skiing history and has some goals in mind.
While she didn’t specify anything, Vonn is one win behind Renate Gotschl for third place in all-time women’s victories. Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proll (62) and Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider (55) top that list. Ingemar Stenmark with 86 men’s wins might be out of reach, but one never knows.
“I’m trying to ski fast and I’ve trained a lot with the men this summer, with the Norwegian men, especially, and over in Golden Peak with the Norwegians and the Canadians,” Vonn said. “I think that really motivates me and inspires me as well. I’m seeing how fast I really can ski. There is no limit.”
Vonn admits that Wednesday’s race makes her nervous. She slipped the Birds of Prey course as a 16-year-old volunteer during the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, but she hasn’t trained on it. She’s doing some freeskiing there today and will inspect the course with the rest of the field Wednesday morning.
There’s also the crowd – family friends, fans and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail kids. She is an alumna of the latter.
“I think the hardest thing about this race is the pressure and trying to do well for the home crowd,” Vonn said. “I always put a lot of pressure on myself any ways, but I’m probably going to put too much pressure on myself on Wednesday to do well for everybody.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.