With training canceled, race postponed, Vonn waits
By HOWARD FENDRICH,
Updated February 12, 2010
WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) Warm, wet weather is turning this mountain into a mushy mess, wiping out training runs and postponing the opening women's Alpine race.
Hardly ideal conditions at any competition, let alone the Winter Olympics, right? Try telling that to Lindsey Vonn. She loves the way things are going. Every delay provides extra time for her badly bruised right shin to rest and heal.
"I'm lucking out pretty heavily because of all the cancellations," the American said Friday. "Normally I would be disappointed. But for my shin, I think, this is the best possible scenario."
The first women's event, Sunday's super-combined, was put off because racers will not have had a chance to train on the downhill course. Thursday's training run was scrapped after two racers started, and practice was canceled altogether for Friday and Saturday.
Much was unknown, including when the women will train and when the super-combined will be raced.
Such schedule disruptions might distress plenty of people - from athletes to spectators, from Olympic and skiing officials to TV types - but certainly not Vonn.
The two-time overall World Cup champion has been pegged as a medal contender in all five Alpine events, and an overwhelming favorite for golds in the downhill and super-G.
But that was before Vonn revealed Wednesday that she was hurt last week in pre-Olympic practice. She fell during a slalom training run and slammed her right boot against her leg.
For a week or so, it was a struggle simply to put on her ski boot and stand still in it - forget about trying to speed down a slope - and Vonn raised the possibility that she might not be able to compete at all.
After taking "a bunch" of painkillers and rubbing Novocaine-like cream on the shin Thursday morning, Vonn did ski for the first time since getting hurt Feb. 2, albeit only in a free run and not on the official course. That was enough, however, to convince her she was ready to take part in full-fledged training.
Then again, as much as she would like to get a true sense of where things stand with the injury by skiing all-out, Vonn figures the best possible medicine at this point is staying off that shin.
"This helps us, for sure," said Thomas Vonn, who serves as a coach and adviser to his wife.
He said her leg is "definitely getting better each day."
For her part, Lindsey Vonn wrote on her Facebook page that she took it as a positive sign that her shin felt about the same Friday as it did Thursday, "because I skied pretty hard on it yesterday testing it out. It could easily have gotten worse and it didn't."
Other racers are assuming that Vonn will be the real Vonn come race day.
Her chief rival, Maria Riesch of Germany, also just so happens to be her best friend, and they've chatted about the sports world's most famous shin.
"I don't think that it's too bad," Riesch said, adding that she is planning to face a Vonn able to compete "as normal."
Here's how reigning Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson of Sweden sees it: "I see her skiing ... and that makes me know that she's in good shape."
Vonn and others did get a close look at the Olympic course Friday, because racers had a chance to inspect it, even though the training was called off. Heavy overnight rain, combined with temperatures in the 40s, made the slope too soft and possibly unsafe.
"It's definitely not in raceable condition," Vonn said.
That's why the men's downhill race scheduled for Saturday - when the forecast calls for more rain - was in jeopardy of being postponed, too. The women's training originally on tap for Saturday was set aside because officials wanted to devote all of their course workers and equipment to getting the men's slope as ready as possible.
What no one - even Vonn - seems to quite know for sure right now is how her leg will respond to the pounding of an actual race.
"Obviously, I'm really looking forward to running the course," said Vonn, who lives and trains in Vail, Colo. "But at this point, as much rest as I can get on my leg would be great."She was "really disappointed" not to be able to march alongside other members of the U.S. Olympic team in Friday's opening ceremony in Vancouver, about 75 miles away. Instead, Vonn planned to watch the event on TV - "probably while doing therapy."
"I've got to be thinking about my races and my leg," she said, "and making my shin feel good as possible."