America’s Lindsey Vonn finally began what she hopes will be a two-month return to glory in February in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Vonn finished 40th at Lake Louise, Canada on a course she has dominated. But, all that mattered this time was she’s back.It was a bitter cold, foggy day and the race was delayed an hour. But, after what Vonn’s been through with a devastating injury last February at the World Alpine Championships and a less serious re-injury training at Copper Mt. in November, the delay meant little.
Vonn ran the course at the resort nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” in one minute: 59.22. She was wearing the lightweight knee brace she will use this season, telling reporters on the scene it will slow her down a bit, but she’ll just have to ski that much faster to overcome it.
Ironically, Vonn’s close friend, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, won the race in a time of 1:56.03. Marianne Kaufman-Abderholden of Switzerland was second and Elena Franchini of Italy, third. Last weekend’s big winner at Beaver Creek was Lara Gut, but she didn’t carry the magic over, finishing 10th.
Other American finishers were Julia Ford, 21st; Julia Mancuso, 26th; Stacey Cook, 39th; and Leanne Smith, 49th; and Laurenne Ross, 29th, continuing their struggles in the early season races. Ford's result, however, was a bright spot.
It’s déjà vu all over again Saturday as the women take on the Lake Louise downhill course once again
Men At Beaver Creek
Meanwhile the men’s World Cup downhill Friday at Beaver Creek, Colo., saw Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway - a favorite of the Colorado crowd - top the downhill podium in a time of 1:44.50. Svindal took the men’s super G race last weekend at Lake Louise, but finished in fourth in the downhill. He now sits atop the overall standings.
Austrian Hannes Reichelt was second in 1:44.67, while Italy’s Peter Fill was third in 1:44.70.
Svindal has a history with the Beaver Creek course and crowds. He had a brutal crash on the Birds of Prey course in 2007, but came back the next year to win the race. Today’s success was Svindal’s fourth podium finish in the Beaver Creek downhill and his second win. The race was held on a hybrid of the new Raptor Course and Birds of Prey. Svindal said he favored the old “world-class” course better, but he liked getting the win.
American finishers saw Bode Miller 13th; Travis Ganong 15th; Steve Nyman, 21st; Marco Sullivan, 28th; Erik Fisher, 29th; and Ted Ligety, 42nd.
Weather delays getting out of Calgary following last weekend’s races at Lake Louise meant losing one training day, while a foot of heavy overnight snow eliminated the second training run. Organizers then switched the super G, originally scheduled for Friday, with Saturday’s scheduled downhill. The super G is scheduled for 11 a.m. (MST).
Photo: Lindsey Vonn at Lake Louise (File Photo)