Vonn arrives; ties for fourth in training
BEAVER CREEK — Elvis is officially in the building, or on the slopes. Pick your cliche.
Lindsey Vonn, the current downhill and super-G World Cup leader who doubtless hopes to leave her imprint of the 2015 FIS Alpine Worlds Ski Championships, tied for fourth with Switzerland’s Fabienne Suter during Monday’s windy downhill training run in Beaver Creek.
Vonn was 62-hundredths off the pace set by teammate Stacey Cook.
With the caveats that this was downhill training and super-G is today’s race and that racers do not necessarily go all out during these runs, Vonn appeared to be in fast form. Running 10th out of the gate, Vonn was 26-hundredths of a second in the green after the second interval, The Runway, and 3-hundredths ahead at the third time check, The Gauntlet.
She lost time on the second half of the course, falling into red numbers by Banshee Bank, yet it was clear she took it easy, standing up over the Redtail Jump.
“This was the first downhill run I’ve had on this hill,” Vonn said. “I’ve trained a couple days of super-G and a day of GS. I never had a chance to run the downhill. I think it was a little bit different than I expected, just as far as the terrain and how they set it. But it was perfect. I really loved it.”
Back from injury
Of course, Vonn missed the test event on Raptor, the women’s course at Beaver Creek built for these Championships, in November 2013. Having injured her right knee in a spectacular crash during the Worlds Super-G in Schladming, Austria, on Feb. 5, 2013, she redid her knee during early-season training at Copper Mountain and then officially scrubbed her 2013-14 season in January.
“It’s been a long two years,” Vonn said. “But I don’t think about the past at all. I’m really happy to be here, to be healthy, to be skiing well. I’m just enjoying the moment. I’m a lot more relaxed and a lot more happy than I have been. Because of the injuries, I just enjoy everything a lot more. I appreciate everything a lot more.
“Today, I had a lot of great memories of the ’99 World Championships and being a course slipper. I saw all the kids out there and remember being in the exact same position. So I don’t know, everything has come full circle.”
Her results say the right knee is in fine shape. She has three downhill wins and two in super-G already this season.
“No, I never doubted myself,” Vonn said. “I always believed that I would be back. I just didn’t know how long it would take me to come back. It’s definitely been a lot quicker riser to the top than I had expected. Obviously, (I’m) very thankful for how things have gone. (I’m) just really happy to be back home and healthy and feeling good and enjoying these World Championships.”
While Vonn will be competing in today’s super-G, the first race of the Championships, she will continue training downhill on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I just have to get a better kind of feeling for it the next couple of days,” she said. “Super-G, I feel really comfortable and confident. Downhill, I think I need a little more training. Today was a fine start, and, hopefully, tomorrow is good day.”
Cook really didn’t want to wan her training run.
“I was kind of joking with my coach earlier how this year I’ve typically been fast on the training runs and the plan today was not to be fast,” Cook said, saying that fast trainings haven’t translated to race days. “So obviously, that didn’t work out.”
She was obviously joking, but she added that she felt good about the technical aspects of her run.
Cook was part of an unprecedented American sweep of the podium (Vonn, Cook and Julia Mancuso) in a downhill up in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Dec. 6. This was an important result because the Americans have five racers for four spots in Friday’s downhill.
Vonn and Mancuso (13th on Monday, despite some difficulty up top) have locked down two of those spots. While training times are always taken with a grain of salt, Cook couldn’t have hurt her cause by winning the practice on Monday.
Laurenne Ross, also bidding for a start, finished seventh.
“I can say that I feel a lot more comfortable with my setup this year, getting used to the new skis and everything. It took a while, and I feel really, really good on them. I changed a couple things in my skiing and I think I’m just skiing with more confidence now that I’m comfortable.”
Glenwood Springs’ Alice McKennis ended up in 14th, a good showing, but not as good as she would have liked against her teammates in the chase for a berth in Friday’s race.
“This has been a goal for me to make it back here. My ultimate goal is to race and go for a podium. I still have some steps to make to make that happen.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.