By Neil Leverett
- American Lindsey Vonn looking for third Olympic medal and second downhill title in South Korea
- Vonn goes in women’s downhill, super-G and combined races in fourth winter Games
- XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea run until February 25
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – As American Lindsey Vonn competes in her fourth Winter Olympic Games in South Korea – with one eye on a record number of World Cup wins on the FIS calendar – the Minnesotan is now chasing history for a second Olympic title in PyeongChang.
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Vonn eyeing second Olympic crown
As Lindsey Vonn builds up to the start of competition in her fourth Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, she arrives in South Korea having notched a remarkable 81st World Cup win on the final weekend of competition before the trip to Asia, winning both women’s downhill races during a double-header at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany.
With the 33-year-old now just five wins on the FIS calendar from setting a record, Vonn now switches focus to regaining Olympic Gold, eight years on from taking the women’s downhill crown at Vancouver in 2010.
Since claiming victory in front of an essentially home-field crowd in British Columbia however, what was meant to be documented as her journey in ‘chasing history’ back in 2013, became somewhat the odyssey through illness but most pertinently career-threatening injury.
Injury at 2013 Worlds’
With 13 seasons behind her and no less than seven major world and Olympic medals and four world cup titles under her belt – including double world gold at Val-d’Isere in 2009 – Vonn embarked on the 2013 season with one goal in mind; equaling but ultimately breaking the 86 win tally of the great Swede Ingemar Stenmark back in 1989 in Aspen, Colorado. The best laid plans – particularly in sport – never run smoothly, and injury was set to derail her pursuit for a place in alpine ski history.
Embarking on the aim of the magic 86 mark, documented by Eurosport series ‘Chasing History’, the Minnesota native crashed during the opening super-G race of the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria.
Airlifted to hospital, the diagnosis was a torn ACL and further knee ligament damage. For Vonn, priorities of competing had taken a stark turn in favour of her health, and despite claims she would be ready for the Sochi Games a year later, further injury and a battle with ill health resulted in the American withdrawing a month before competition.
Comeback trail; history on horizon
The road to full fitness has been a winding one for Vonn in the past four years. Winning bronze at the last two worlds’ in Beaver Creek and St. Moritz in the Super-G and downhill respectively, the St. Paul skier tentatively offered signs the comeback trail was well on track.
Undergoing surgery once again in November 2016 however, the journey has not been without its’ setbacks, but Vonn as the calendar flipped over into 2018 looked to be timing her return for the Olympics with almost surgical precision.
Having finished second behind Sofia Goggia in Italian’s backyard in January – after Goggia also won in Bad Kleinkerheim five days previously – Vonn came out on top a day later. Having won twice in Garmisch as documented, few would back against a second Olympic gold for Vonn in the downhill this fortnight. If she were to succeed, the American would join Katja Seizinger as the only other women two win double Olympic titles in the event.
Fierce competition; Goggia waits to spoil
The American will have to work for her return to glory however in PyeongChang. Goggia herself is hitting peak form at the right time and remains overall points leader in the downhill itself, but both will be pushed by Lara Gut, Connie Huetter and Tina Weirather to name but three – even Giant Slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin may opt to go also.
In the Super-G, world champion Nicole Schmidhofer will throw her name into the ring for the crown, as will German Viktoria Rebensberg who won in Kronplatz last month and Tessa Worley of France. In the combined, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener won the final race before the Games in Lenzerheide.
Whilst Vonn continues as one of the faces of US sport – with multiple sponsorship endorsements – she closes in on making skiing history by either male or female competitor during the regular season.
The Minnesotan however, has not taken her eye off the prize of completing her almost five-year odyssey from being on top of the world and from injury to rehabilitation by winning the women’s blue-riband event in South Korea. If she does earn her second Olympic title it would be a most glorious moment for the American.
Lindsey Vonn goes in the Women’s Super-G on February 17th, the Downhill at 2am UK time on Wednesday February 21st and the Alpine Combined on February 23rd at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre in PyeongChang.
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