Vonn hopes to see light at night slalom
FLACHAU, Austria – Lindsey Vonn is hoping the lights will improve her slalom performance at a women’s World Cup event Tuesday night.
The three-time overall champion failed to finish her opening run in three straight races and hasn’t been on a podium in more than a year since placing second in Levi, Finland, in November 2009.
The American racked up 180 points in speed races this weekend and said she’s “going to train (slalom) two days and hopefully find my form somehow and get a top 10.”
From her 37 career wins, only two have come in slalom and both were during the 2008-09 season.
Vonn earned top-10 finishes in the first two events this season, coming in sixth in Levi and eighth in Aspen, but then lost her way in skiing’s most technically demanding discipline.
“Slalom hasn’t been going that well for me,” she said. “It started off well, but the last couple of races it just hasn’t been happening for me.”
Last year, Vonn crashed out in the opening run of the Flachau event after losing a ski. She still has good memories of the women’s equivalent to the traditional men’s World Cup night race in nearby Schladming.
“I love night races,” Vonn said. “When I was young I grew up in Minnesota and we always used to ski at night, every day from 7 to 10. I love skiing in the lights. It’s a fun atmosphere in Flachau; there are so many people and so many great fans, so I am excited.”
Vonn’s main rival and good friend, Maria Riesch of Germany, is seeking her first slalom win of the season. Riesch, who leads Vonn in the overall standings by 923 to 827 points, has finished second in four slaloms this season.
The German won the Olympic slalom title a year ago, but her last World Cup win dates back to the same 2009 event at Levi in which Vonn took second.
At last year’s Flachau event, Riesch led by 0.92 seconds after a blistering first run but still finished second to Marlies Schild of Austria.
The race will be the third straight women’s slalom to be staged under floodlights, after Semmering, Austria; and Zagreb, Croatia.
“Last year went pretty well for me. This race suits me,” Riesch said. “I like night slaloms. It’s always a great atmosphere with bright lights and dark skies. We usually go out and train in the morning and get some rest in the afternoon but avoid getting sleepy for the evening.”
Riesch’s main competition is likely again come from Schild, who has 40 career podium finishes in slalom, including 25 wins.
The Austrian has won every race that she has finished this season.
“Many people say I should win this race as well, but it’s a tough piece of work every time,” Schild said. “I am not unbeatable and I won’t take anything for granted. My self-belief is there, though. That’s important.”