November 8, 2013

Lindsey Vonn returns to slopes, and there’s a record in reach

This week, the Olympic downhill champion began downhill training at the U.S. Ski Team’s Speed Center in Colorado.

By Pat Graham
The Associated Press

VAIL, Colo. – Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods pretty much leave the race for records out of their relationship.

click image to enlarge

Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn of Colorado prepares for a promotional event at Gold Peak in Vail Colo., on Friday. Vonn, still trying to get her surgically repaired right knee in top shape with the Sochi Olympics approaching, will begin her World Cup season in a few weeks.

The Associated Press

Even as the power couple chase after historic marks in their respective sports, the topic is rarely discussed.

“One of those unspoken things,” Vonn said Friday at a news conference to promote the upcoming World Cup race season. “But it would be great if we would both break the records. That would be pretty significant.”

The Olympic downhill champion needs three wins to match Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record of 62 World Cup race victories. Vonn could possibly break the record this season as she returns to the slope after tearing her right ACL in a crash last February.

Woods remains four victories away from tying Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major titles, a quest he will resume next April at the Masters.

“For me, I’m not really focused on (records) right now,” said Vonn, who announced in March the couple was dating. “I’m not expecting anything. I’m not expecting to be on the podium. I’m not expecting a win. I’m just going to go out there and seeing what I can do.

“If I continue to train the way I am, I think the results will be good. But I don’t feel any pressure. I’m just having fun.”

These days, there’s no pain in her surgically repaired right knee, even after a demanding few days of training. This week, she began downhill training at the U.S. Ski Team’s Speed Center at Copper Mountain – “Good to finally go fast,” she said – and also squeezed in some super-G runs.

Vonn hardly even thinks about the knee anymore, but her doctor still makes her wear a brace, which could be the case all the way up to the Sochi Games in three months.

“I’m training as if I was 100 percent healthy, which I am,” Vonn said. “My knee feels really good.”

For advice on keeping that knee progressing, Vonn frequently consults Woods, who had major knee surgery a few years ago.

“He helped me through it, and was very supportive,” said Vonn, who also tore her MCL and fractured her tibial plateau in that wipeout at the world championships in Schladming, Austria. “Someone that I could always lean on. That helped me significantly in my return to snow.”

Vonn was so far ahead of her timetable for a return that she contemplated competing in the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 26. At the last moment, though, she changed her mind and skipped it to train even more.

She will make her debut in Beaver Creek at the end of the month, on a new women’s course set up ahead of the 2015 world championships.

“It would be huge for me, if I could win in Beaver Creek,” said Vonn, who lives and trains in Vail. “Obviously, that’s expecting a lot with my first race back.”

As for chasing Moser-Proell’s mark, it’s really not her primary focus.

“My focus is definitely on Sochi,” said the 29-year-old Vonn, who may have Woods rooting her on at World Cup events this season, if his schedule allows. “I want to be able to win a World Cup, before I get to Sochi, because I want to go into Sochi with confidence, knowing that I can win.

“So hopefully, the beginning of the season goes well. If not, I have plenty of time to build into the season. In the end, if I don’t get (a win) it’s not the end of the world. Hopefully, the way I’m skiing, four wins should be something that’s attainable.”

Asked just how much that women’s World Cup record would mean to her, Vonn broke into a grin.

“If I were able to break the record, it would be extremely significant, probably the most significant thing in my entire career, beyond the Olympics,” Vonn said. “Because when you look back on the record books, there are many Olympic champions, but to be the No. 1 winningest World Cup racer of all time, you’re alone on that list. You’re at the top. That would be more substantial for me and my legacy.

“That would be something very special.”

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