Skier Vonn turns to track to improve performance
LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Even in training, Lindsey Vonn performs at a world-class level.The Olympic downhill gold medalist incorporated 400-meter sprints into her workout regimen this summer to increase her ability to explode out of turns in the slalom and giant slalom.She just may have uncovered another skill, as well.A reluctant Vonn sheepishly revealed that her fastest trip around the track took 52 seconds, a self-timed split she hardly believes. With good cause. That time would’ve been good enough to win gold at both the 1964 and ’68 Summer Olympics.”My husband doesn’t even believe me, no one believes me,” Vonn said with a chuckle while visiting a local elementary school recently as part of a promotion for Vail Resorts. “It’s pretty fast and it was on my eighth lap.”She then offers her skeptics a disclaimer.”I admit it does seem a little fishy,” she said. “It could be off.”One thing’s for certain: There’s no doubting Vonn’s performance on the slopes.Hardly content with winning her third straight World Cup title last winter, along with two medals at the Vancouver Olympics, the 26-year-old Vonn overhauled her training in the offseason.The best wanted to get even better, spending 1 months in San Diego and going through fast footwork-type drills, similar to what football players and sprinters do.”We went back to the drawing board, looking at what we can we do to make things better,” Vonn said. “After the Olympic cycle, it’s always an opportunity to change things. So we took the opportunity, did more agility training, more power-explosive training, so I could try to be better in slalom and giant slalom.”I want to improve from what I did last year.”Especially with best friend and top rival Maria Riesch of Germany attempting to close the gap. Vonn, a speed maven, figured the only way to keep an advantage on Riesch was improve at the events Vonn has struggled with most – the technical ones.She had just one podium finish in the slalom and giant slalom events last season, while Riesch captured gold in the slalom at the Olympics.At the season-opening World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, last month, Vonn wound up 18th while Riesch took fifth.”I know her big goal is to beat me this year. Not that it hasn’t been the last years, but I feel extra pressure from her this year,” said Vonn, who won 11 World Cup races in 2009-10, breaking her own American record of nine, set the season before.Actually, she feels extra pressure from everything since that Olympic gold medal was placed around her neck. Her demands have gone up, her expectations, her anxiety.”I thought it would be easier after winning the gold medal,” said Vonn, who also captured bronze in the super G in Vancouver despite a badly bruised right shin that hampered her throughout the competition. “But I feel like the pressure is even more intense now, because I have so much to live up to.”In life, like on the slopes, Vonn goes full speed ahead.She has been all over since the end of ski season, appearing at charity events, sauntering down the red carpet at the Academy of Country Music Awards and shooting commercials for sponsors such as Under Armour (so grueling were her workouts in that commercial – in makeup no less – that the apparel company sprung for a massage).Vonn also made Maxim’s “Hot 100” list, shot photos for Vogue magazine and filmed a scene for her favorite television show, “Law & Order.””I love everything I’ve been doing,” Vonn said. “It’s been so much fun. But there’s only so much fun you can have doing that. You have to also have time for yourself.”And the only way to ensure time for herself is on the mountain, when everything else takes a back seat.”Skiing is my down time,” she said. “I love being on the mountain and having my own time to myself.”Vonn has been working on her slalom in Vail, the resort blowing snow onto a run just for her.Winning gold definitely has its perks and privileges.Some of her U.S. teammates are scheduled to join her this weekend to squeeze in some training runs as well, along with officially announcing the Alpine ski team. Those expected to attend include five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller, 2006 Olympic gold medal winner Ted Ligety and Andrew Weibrecht, who won a surprise bronze medal in the super G at Whistler.After the ski team reunion, Vonn will leave for a slalom race in Levi, Finland, later this month. Then it’s back for a competition in Aspen, one of just two World Cup stops in North America.In Vonn’s opinion, the time to add more competitions in America is now, in order to capitalize on the success of the U.S. Alpine team, which took home a record haul of eight medals at the Vancouver Games.”We have a lot of momentum from the last Olympics,” she said. “If we use that, it would really help our sport, not just for the U.S., but for the world. The more popularity we can get for our sport, the better.”
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.