Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Time to get out the cowbells folks, the fastest ladies in the world are back in town.

Tomorrow morning, come snow or shine, the U.S. segment of the FIS Women’s World Cup will kick off at 10 a.m. with a giant slalom on Aspen Mountain. Thanks, as always, to a cadre of local professionals who volunteer their time and expertise, the course will be in tip-top shape for a November race.

Obviously, all eyes will be on Lindsey Vonn, the Vail phenom (those words are tough to write no matter how deserving she is of them) who will be making her only Colorado appearance before the Olympic Games in Vancouver. For the uninitiated, Vonn is the only American woman ever to win back-to-back overall women’s World Cup titles. It is hoped that she can dominate the alpine events in Vancouver and give downhill skiing the kind of boost that, say, Peggy Fleming gave to figure skating back in 1968.

That is a tall task, but who knows …

In my book, Vonn’s most impressive performance came when her name was still Lindsey Kildow (she married fellow skier Thomas Vonn in 2007) and she finished eighth in the downhill in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

Impressed by an eighth place finish, you ask?

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Just days before the downhill was contested at San Sicarlo, Kildow took a terrible fall on a training run. She was airlifted to a hospital where she spent the night under observation. Not to be deterred, she returned to the start gate for the final. Hampered by a severely-bruised hip, she finished more than a second behind gold medalist Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, but nonetheless won the respect and admiration of her fellow skiers and fans around the world.

While the giant slalom is not Vonn’s best event, she will be the crowd favorite tomorrow no doubt. If this were Austria and Vonn were Austrian, this event would have Super Bowl status. But, alas, here in the U.S. there will likely be just a few thousand diehard ski racing fans there to cheer her on. So cheer loud.

New this year will be the planting of an Andrea Mead Lawrence “shrine” to honor the event’s winners. A grove of Aspen trees will be planted in the name of America’s greatest Olympic skier and individual trees will be planted in the names of the women who take first in the giant slalom and slalom races this weekend. It is a fitting tribute for a woman who not only epitomized ski racing but also was a committed environmentalist.

This is the second weekend in a row for top-notch sports here in Aspen. Though the Aspen High Skiers’ football season came to an end last week, we would be remiss if we didn’t congratulate Coach Mike Sirko and the entire team for a great year.

In a town that loves to play, it is terrific to be able to just be spectators occasionally.