Winter Olympics: Bumpy course takes toll on Vonn’s bruised shin
By PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Lindsey Vonn is starting to like all this bad weather at the Olympics.
Well, it might be bad for fans and TV executives, but it works so well for her bruised right shin.
And Tuesday brought yet more delays to Alpine skiing: A women’s downhill training run was canceled because of too much overnight snow, giving Vonn more time to rest. The men’s super-combined race was put off, too.
It’s been two weeks since Vonn injured the shin, and while it’s still sore, weather delays have let it heal enough that she no longer has any doubt about being able to compete at the Vancouver Games. Despite the pain, Vonn posted the fastest training time Monday on the upper portion of the downhill course.
The downhill race, Vonn’s best event, is scheduled for Wednesday. She won five of six World Cup downhills so far this season.
Now, thanks to the finicky weather, she’s getting more time off. The 25-year-old American certainly was pleased when three other training runs were wiped out.
“Having this break — I can’t even tell you how much it helped,” Vonn said.
The results showed on the course.
Although Vonn’s shin clearly still hurts, she also demonstrated she’s clearly still the favorite.
She finished Monday’s top portion — longer and more demanding — in 1 minute, 30.75 seconds, or 0.39 seconds faster than teammate Julia Mancuso. Then, skiing the much shorter bottom section after the men’s downhill race, Vonn turned in a time of 18.52 seconds, good for 20th and 0.73 seconds behind Sweden’s Anja Paerson.
Intentional or not, the point was made: Bad shin and all, she’s the one to beat.
Her fellow competitors definitely took notice.
“I don’t think that it’s too bad,” said Maria Riesch, who finished the upper section 1.79 seconds behind Vonn. “I know this kind of injury. It’s really painful. But I think for skiing she’s OK. Definitely looks like that.”
Vonn, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion, hurt the shin in pre-Olympic practice Feb. 2 in Austria. She stayed off skis for more than a week, but tested the injury — with a good response — in an unofficial slalom training run Sunday.
The shin was a little tender Monday morning, but that was to be expected.
“After skiing four runs of pretty good intensity slalom on salted snow, with the conditions the way they are here now, I think even if you had healthy shins, you’d probably have a sore shin today,” said Thomas Vonn, who serves as a coach and adviser to his wife. “She’s happy to be where she’s at, as opposed to where she was a couple of days ago.”
Lindsey Vonn took painkillers and used numbing cream before Monday’s run, but the weather-beaten slope definitely didn’t do her any favors.
“It was a fight just to make it down the whole way,” she said. “I was barely in my tuck in any part of the course. It’s probably the worst course for my shin.”
The big, final jump on the second run didn’t help, either.
“It was fine until the jump, and that really hurt,” Vonn said. “It’s throbbing really bad.”
She even might benefit from all of the fresh snow that fell Monday night and into Tuesday, because it could soften the slope.
Either way, she figures she’s all set for the downhill — bumps, bruises and all.
“I just have to be able to grit my teeth and fight through it on Wednesday,” Vonn said, “and hopefully I can still come out on top.”