Vonns dream, Part II: the big globe
BORMIO, Italy Lindsey Vonn entered this season looking for a downhill globe, but somewhere along the way, she won the most coveted prize in alpine skiing the overall World Cup title.Vonn, the former Ski Club Vail racer, locked up the overall crown in Fridays slalom at the World Cup finals in Bormio, Italy, shortly after fellow American Bode Miller secured the mens overall, making for the first U.S. double win since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney did the same 25 years ago.I still cant even believe it, Vonn said during a teleconference Friday. Ive always looked at the record books and thought (the winners) are amazing, and I hope one day, maybe I can get to that point. I just have such respect for everyone who has accomplished this achievement. … I cant even believe Im at this point in my career. Its a very pleasant surprise.Last month, Vonn wrapped up the downhill crown, becoming only the second U.S. woman to collect a globe in alpine skiings premier event her childhood idol Picabo Street won in 1995 and 1995.Going into the season, my big goal was just the downhill title, Vonn said. Thats been a big dream of mine since I met Picabo and was 9 years old. Its my favorite event.As the season moved into the final stretch, Vonn continued to build a lead in the overall and got a big boost when a pair of technical races were canceled in Zwiesel, Germany, two weeks ago.I dont think (potentially winning) sank in until after Zwiesel, she said. I was going into the Crans-Montana, (Switzerland,) downhill and super-combined and had a pretty big lead at that point. I capitalized on those races and came into Bormio with a (157-point) lead.After the Bormio downhill was canceled, Vonn was nervous that either Germanys Maria Riesch or Austrias Nicole Hosp would catch her. But after a second-place finish in the super-G her best all season Vonn closed out the title with a bang Friday, laying down the fastest second run to move up from 26th to 11th in the slalom.
Vonn, 23, joins Tamara McKinney as the only other female U.S. skier to win the overall.Its great to see another generation get up there and be on top of the world, McKinney said during the teleconference.
In the nine downhill races this season (the final one was canceled), Vonn won five, placed second in two and had a fourth- and a fifth-place finish. In the two super-combined races, Vonn won the downhill legs. Of her 1,367 overall points heading into the final race, Saturdays giant slalom, Vonn scored 755 in downhill.Last year, I felt like I had a lot of really fast runs but wasnt able to keep it together for the whole run. I would always make one or two big mistakes. I think thats where Ive improved a lot this year. Just being more consistent and able to have those clean, solid runs, Vonn said. Its been a progression, just getting more experience and learning more courses. And just being smarter, knowing where I can risk a lot and where I have to ski more conservatively.Vonn, who started skiing at Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minn., under legendary coach Eric Sailer, moved to Vail at 11, where she learned how to ski speed events.She had a solid technical base and was very proficient at slalom, but coming from Buck Hill, she didnt have the big-mountain experience, said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Keli Wyatt, who worked with Vonn as a J4 and J3 racer. At a young age, she had a really good eye at inspection. She had the ability to see the lines, and her memorization skills were good. As she got older and stronger, she started skiing tighter, better lines.Along with her progression in downhill, Vonn credits her husband, Thomas, whom she married over the summer, for helping her through the season.Hes been with me almost the whole season this year, and thats made a big difference as far as emotional stability and being able to deal with all the pressure of the overall, the downhill title and all the media. Its been pretty crazy this year, and hes definitely been the rock in my life.
While most Americans may focus on the Olympic games and gold medals, the ski-racing world has clearly taken notice of Vonns rise to superstardom. Vonn, who speaks German, cant escape a finish corral anywhere in Europe without being hounded for autographs. After a long absence of young American racers, Vonn has emerged along with Ted Ligety to be the next wave of idols.Every sport needs someone from their own country to succeed and inspire, Vonn said.Aldo Radamus, the executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, knows how much Vonns success means to younger racers in Vail.To see that level of greatness by someone who skied down those same slopes and trained in the same weight room is great, he said. They have a great connection with her because whenever shes in town, she stops by and says, Hi. Shes such a wonderful ambassador for the sport, the country and our club.Much like McKinney, and her idol Street, Vonn has found success at a young age. But the ultracompetitive Vonn isnt worried about losing her motivation. I definitely dont think Ill run out of gas anytime soon, Vonn said. Im only 23, and there is still a lot left to accomplish in my career, and I think one thing Im good at is goal-setting. I definitely will come up with some more goals. Next year, Ill just continue to work hard and do the same thing. Ill try to get a downhill and super-G globe and try again to win the overall. Theres always steps that lead to goals, and I think Im going to continue to walk up those steps.Vonn doesnt plan on changing her approach next season.Downhill will be my No. 1 focus. But I think I have more to do in super-G. I have work to do with equipment and stuff and just continue to work hard on that. Next year, hopefully I can get more points in that. (Giant slalom) and slalom Ive going to try to stick with the same approach this year try and train whenever I have opportunities but making sure Im not wearing myself down, she said. Its a fine line and tough balance, but Ill continue to work hard in the tech events, and hopefully next year Ill have a better start number and pop in there again. This year, I had good speed in slalom but just wasnt consistent. I know I can be on the podium in slalom, as Im sure Eric (Sailer) believes that I can, too. I just have to make it to the finish.Sailer thinks the best of Vonn is yet to come.She is going to be a force, he said. If nothing drastic happens, if her personal life goes well and she doesnt get hurt, shes going to be the best ever.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.