GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — The buildup to the last World Cup downhill races before the Pyeongchang Olympics has been just as rough as Lindsey Vonn’s up-and-down season.
After waiting for hours for a second straight day Friday, the American standout and her competitors had to leave the Kandahar course again without skiing on it.
The effects of the bad weather that postponed and ultimately canceled training Thursday were still an issue the next day as the rain had left too many spots of weakened snow to make a safe run possible.
And safety has been a main priority for Vonn approaching the Olympics, with the Feb. 17 super-G and the Feb. 21 downhill in South Korea less than three weeks away.
“In general my confidence is high, my body feels relatively good,” Vonn told The Associated Press. “I am just not thinking about injuries. As long as my confidence is good and I am able to ski the way I want to, which I am, then I am not concerned.”
Vonn badly damaged her right knee skiing in a patch of soft snow at the world championships in 2013, and the 2010 Olympic downhill champion ultimately missed the Sochi Games the following year.
This weekend, Vonn is set to compete in two events, a shortened downhill after a mandatory training run on Saturday followed by a race over the full 2.9-kilometer (1.8-mile) distance of the Kandahar the next day.
One of her coaches, Alex Hoedlmoser, said “the main focus is on the Olympics.”
“We just have to make sure that she is healthy,” he said. “If everything is cool and good, then she is for sure good for a win here. She is not going to back off but we are also not going to be stupid, to risk anything, where she could get hurt.”
While Vonn has got 40 of her record 79 career World Cup wins in the discipline, she has won only one downhill since triumphing in the German resort just over a year ago.
She finally won again two weeks ago in Italy. And in another downhill the day before, she was runner-up to Sofia Goggia, the Italian who also beat her twice in test events on the Olympic hill in March 2017.
Last week in Switzerland, Vonn led a combined event after the opening super-G portion before finishing fourth.
“I feel really good coming into this last weekend before the Olympics,” Vonn said. “Cortina was an amazing weekend, Lenzerheide was equally good. I was really happy with my super-G run and my slalom. For only skiing (slalom) one day in the last five months, it was pretty solid.”
It seems like Vonn has been finding her form at the right time. Apart from winning a super-G in December, the first three months of her World Cup season were rather disappointing, marred by two crashes in Lake Louise, Alberta, a jarred back in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and a recurrent knee issue in Val d’Isere, France.
“My season started off poorly mainly just because of the first crash in Lake Louise,” Vonn said. “If I hadn’t have crashed I most likely would have won that race and that would have set my season off on a completely different path.”
Vonn said it took her some time “to get my body back in working order” but she was happy how her results have been since.
And so was her coach.
“Right now we are on track, we are progressing,” said Hoedlmoser, who switched from the U.S. men’s speed team in April last year to work with Vonn and assist her long-term coach, Chris Knight.
“She had that massive crash in Lake Louise in the first race. That obviously kind of shook her up a little bit,” Hoedlmoser said. “We always have to be careful with the load of training. We are not doing too much so her knee is not responding too much. But I think we are still on target to go to the Olympics and win gold there.”
Vonn couldn’t agree more.
“For me, I am happy with the way things are right now,” she said. “It’s building up exactly as I’d hoped with my confidence, with my skiing. Everything is really peaking for the Olympics, which is exactly what you want.”