Despite knee injury, Vonn aims for overall title
Lindsey Vonn won’t allow a possible sprained MCL in her left knee to sack her season.
The three-time overall World Cup champion has competed in pain plenty of times before, winning the downhill at the Vancouver Olympics last winter on a badly bruised shin.
So dealing with this injury will hardly be new for the U.S. skier.
Trailing in the standings? Now that’s a foreign concept.
Vonn is 145 points behind her friend and top rival Maria Riesch of Germany, a gap Vonn’s convinced she can still overcome.
“Don’t count me out. I’ve won this title three times. I have experience,” Vonn said in a teleconference Tuesday after being selected as the U.S. Olympic Committee’s sportswoman of the year for 2010. “I’m still very positive and still very much in the hunt.”
There’s still time, too, with the women’s circuit completing 22 of the 39 races scheduled at the start of the season. Not only that but a good portion of the remaining events involve the downhill or super-G – Vonn’s specialties.
“The reason I think it’s so lopsided right now in the points is that it’s been mostly slalom and giant slalom so far,” said Vonn, who’s never finished on the podium in a World Cup GS event. “I’m definitely really positive in where I stand.”
Riesch has gained points on Vonn in the technical events and remains hopeful the giant slalom and slalom races that were wiped out due to warm weather in Maribor, Slovenia, earlier this month, will be rescheduled after the world championships.
The International Ski Federation has yet to reschedule the races.
“I think it would not be fair to cancel it totally,” Riesch said over the weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. “I hope they do it in Spindleruv Mlyn (Czech Republic) or somewhere.”
Vonn injured her knee on Saturday as she attempted to recover from a big mistake in a downhill race, losing control and nearly performing the splits at 75 mph.
“Honestly, it shocked me quite a bit,” said Vonn, who recovered to finish third. “I was actually pretty scared and thought I was going to T-bone the fence.”
The next day, sore and on pain medication, she won a super-G event.
Vonn has been living on the edge all season, averting wipeouts and still finding a way to finish on the podium.
Not exactly her game plan, but hard to argue with the results.
“I’m not pushing past my capabilities,” Vonn said. “I’m definitely skiing within myself.
“I’m a lot more agile and quick on my feet than I ever have been. That’s the reason why I’m able to finish and still be on the podium even though I’m making really big mistakes.”
Vonn had a doctor examine her knee and conclude it was a sprained MCL. She has yet to undergo an MRI.
Her MCL sprain isn’t the most famous of the week.
That honor belongs to Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, whose inability to finish the NFC championship game has subjected him to criticism and questions about his toughness.
Vonn’s tenacity can hardly be questioned.
She’s come back from a litany of injuries over her career, such as capturing one of her three straight World Cup titles after slicing her thumb on a champagne bottle in a victory celebration.
Even more notable was the severe shin bruise that became the talk of the Winter Olympics last February and introduced the world to topfen cheese as a home remedy. Vonn smeared the semisoft cheese over her wounded leg and went on to win gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career. So maybe I’m just used to it and maybe it makes me more determined,” Vonn said. “When I get injured or make mistakes, I want to fight back and prove to myself and everyone that I’m capable of winning races.”
Vonn insisted her relationship with Riesch hasn’t been altered despite the reversal in the standings. Usually, it’s Vonn with the lead, not the friend she typically joins for the Christmas holiday in Riesch’s hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, site of this year’s world championships.
“I think things are pretty much normal for us,” Vonn said. “When the schedule gets pretty packed the way it has been, we found ourselves with less and less time to hang out. But we’re still very much good friends and I think we’re focused on trying to ski well.
“It’s definitely a different season, the roles have changed a little bit. We’re still good friends. That won’t change no matter who wins.”
– AP sportswriter Andrew Dampf contributed from Italy.