Happy, healthy, injury-free: Lindsey Vonn takes final World Cup win and is ready for Olympics

By Graham Dunbar, AP
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy, healthy Lindsey Vonn is ready for Olympics

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Lindsey Vonn heads to the Vancouver Olympics happy and healthy after enjoying a perfect Sunday.

“Now I feel like I’m ready,” Vonn said after winning a super-G race at St. Moritz, her final World Cup event before the Feb. 12-28 games.

“I’m definitely in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Mentally and physically prepared.”

Vonn kept her promise to first take care of World Cup business.

She extended her lead in the overall standings, clinched the super-G title with two races to spare and took instant revenge against a course that on Saturday tricked her out of a chance to go unbeaten all season in downhill.

Minutes before racing Sunday, she even got near a television to watch her good friend Roger Federer on his relentless victory march at the Australian Open.

Best of all, Vonn completed her 26-race, pre-Olympic program with nine wins, confident and injury-free.

“I’m really relieved that I made it through the World Cup with no injuries,” Vonn said. “That is absolutely the worst thing that could possibly happen. It’s kind of been on my mind.”

Vonn then reeled off the names of three expected rivals in speed events who succumbed to season-ending knee injuries in the past 10 days.

Nadia Fanchini’s nasty crash Sunday caused serious damage to both knees. The 23-year-old Italian got bronze in downhill when Vonn won world championships gold last February.

Olympic downhill silver medalist Martina Schild landed badly in training at St. Moritz last Wednesday, days after fellow Swiss Fraenzi Aufdenblatten fell in a giant slalom at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Switzerland already lost its top downhill prospect in the offseason. Teenager Lara Gut, who got the worlds silver behind Vonn, dislocated her right hip in a training spill.

“You see injuries and see things like that happen,” the 25-year-old Vonn said. “All you can do is stay focused on your race. That comes from maturity.

“Having that mental strength is really important, not just for World Cup racing but also for the Olympics.”

Vonn cited the racers’ creed that skiing cautiously to avoid injury often ends up causing one.

Aggressive tactics worked well Sunday as she mastered the bottom half of a Corviglia course shortened for safety reasons because of strong winds higher up the mountain.

Vonn wanted to “take revenge on the hill” for the frustration she felt Saturday when her bid for a sixth win in as many downhills was knocked off course by hitting a hole in the snow. She placed fifth and let winner Maria Riesch close the gap in their race for the overall title, before recovering all that ground and more on Sunday as her German friend finished 11th.

“It’s great to come back strong after a disappointing day,” said Vonn, who said her husband Thomas helped talk her through putting the loss into perspective.

Vonn now returns to the U.S. women’s team base in Austria before flying out this week for a brief stop at home in Park City, Utah, then on to chase her Olympics destiny as a designated star of the show.

Vancouver will be her third Olympics though perhaps the first where all is aligned to win the first medal she craves.

At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Vonn said: “I was a kid, it doesn’t really count.” She has also learned a lesson from Turin where she raced after getting injured in a downhill training crash that sent her to hospital.

On Whistler Mountain, she’ll save the aggressive stuff for race day.

“I think that’s a better plan than trying to win the training run,” she joked, having got this far unscathed.

“I feel healthy, I feel strong, I have self-confidence. They’re all the things I need going into Vancouver.”

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