Vonn a go for Aspen Winternational | AspenTimes.com

Vonn a go for Aspen Winternational

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
ALL |

ASPEN ” Aspen Winternational will feature ski racing’s main attraction after all.

One week after she sustained a severe bone bruise in her left knee in a training crash, reigning World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn was given the go-ahead Wednesday by the U.S. Ski Team’s Dr. William Sterett to participate in this weekend’s giant slalom and slalom races on Aspen Mountain.

While she’s admittedly anxious, the Vail skier said she couldn’t pass up her lone chance to compete on home snow this season.

“I really want to compete in the U.S., especially since my success in Levi, [Finland],” she said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “As long as the knee is feeling great and as long as there’s no pain and no swelling, I’d really like to race in Aspen.”

Vonn, fresh off a victory in the season’s opening slalom in Finland on Nov. 15 ” her first in the discipline ” hit a bump while training in super G at Copper Mountain on Nov. 19 and one of her skis popped off. As she fell, the tail of her other ski caught the ground, twisting her knee awkwardly.

“For a while there it was looking pretty grim,” Vonn said. “It looked like it could possibly be my meniscus and I would have to have surgery. Thankfully, after the MRI it turned out it would be OK. I would just have to be on crutches for a few days.”

She was off crutches and back on skis Monday. Two days later, after three positive and pain-free training sessions, Sterett gave Vonn clearance to compete.

“It’s great news,” U.S. alpine director Jesse Hunt said Wednesday. “I’m super excited to see her in the start gate this weekend, especially after the start to the season.”

After just two races this season, Vonn has already accrued as many top-10 finishes (two) as she did all of last year in her traditionally weaker disciplines of giant slalom and slalom. Given those two results, she theoretically could have skipped this weekend’s races.

But she said she wanted to keep the momentum going, not to mention atone for mediocre past finishes on Aspen’s Ruthie’s Run. The last American woman to podium here was Kristina Koznick, in 2004.

“I really want to compete in the U.S. and especially since my success in Levi, I feel like I have something to accomplish in slalom and in Aspen,” she said. “In the downhill race in Aspen last year, due to weather and what not, I wasn’t able to ski the way I wanted to and get a win on home soil.”

While she’s feeling confident in slalom, Vonn raced giant slalom Wednesday for the first time since the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 25. She said she’s not sure how her knee will react on a newly injected surface.

“It’s going to be interesting having to go in with a little knee problem,” Vonn admitted. “I have to make sure I’m resting as much as I can as opposed to training as much as I can. … I’m going to have to baby it a little, take it easy and make sure it’s healed.”

Despite lingering reservations, Vonn said her confidence is high and she will not hold back in front of the home crowd come Saturday.

“I’m mostly making sure that I’m careful when training and racing, but I’m going to go for it no matter what,” she added. “When I’m in the starting gate, I’m going to forget about my knee and think about racing and skiing the best I can. Hopefully, that results in a strong weekend.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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