Written by By Staff Writer
It is a special night. After all the mud, sweat and tears that went into training, the athletes have their first race of the year.
For alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, last night’s World Cup downhill race at Val Gardena in Italy was a welcome distraction from the illness that forced her out of this season’s downhill World Cup races in France last week.
The 31-year-old is also gearing up for her next showdown with Ragnhild Mowinckel after the Norwegian broke the American’s Olympic Super-G medal tally with gold at last year’s PyeongChang Games.
CNN gives you a front row seat to the 2019 Alpine skiing world championships with first interviews with Lindsey Vonn and Ragnhild Mowinckel.
The race was the first opportunity for Vonn to put on a solid performance since she was forced to pull out of last week’s World Cup downhill race at Courchevel because of a bad knee that also forced her to miss the end of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
CNN follows Lindsey Vonn as she trains for the super-G in Are, Sweden.
“I hate putting up numbers, but I’m extremely happy I have one down,” Vonn said of Mowinckel’s score of 0.6045. “I felt the pins and the antibiotics that I had given my knee, that kind of put me in a very weird kind of mental place where I felt like I needed to make that race for my career so I put in a lot of effort and fortunately I was able to do that.”
Vonn is in great form after she won her second consecutive overall World Cup last week. A hamstring injury left her on the sidelines for more than two months earlier this season, but since returning she’s had two super-G World Cup victories and a win in the downhill at the giant slalom worlds in Are, Sweden.
Although she said she is not sure how she’s feeling at the moment, Vonn says she’s keen to stay focused on competing.
“This year I was going through a really rough time when I was injured — obviously with my knee and all that,” she said. “I was watching other skiers do really good things and I really started to feel like, ‘Wow, I’m just so far behind’ and I’ve got no chance and it was really depressing.
“It just makes you want to train even more and I’ve always made a point to say I train, train, train. But it’s also important to have a few days when you do nothing, that really helps to refocus and re-energize your mind and ultimately helps in the race.”
“I really just want to focus on racing.”
She said the first thing that came to mind when she thought about retiring was getting the gym bill paid.
“I try not to think about it a lot but I am still getting older,” she said. “I was 25 when I started to do these things. I’m 31 now and they are starting to hit me a little bit.
“I do want to keep competing as long as I can, I don’t really plan on retiring yet. I am looking forward to the summer racing. I know I have other races that I have to compete for but I will definitely keep racing when I want to compete.”
In France last week Vonn’s crash in the downhill at Courchevel brought the curtain down on the world championships for injured Alpine skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn.
It was a tough lesson for Vonn to learn, though she said it was also a valuable lesson that she can take with her into what will be her final competition in California, and then a few pre-season races before the world championships in Switzerland.
“It definitely helps that I have other races coming up, but the only other thing that has given me such relief — more than my injury — is I think the reason I keep putting in all of these jumps is because I have still got a chance to win and this is the one race I really do want to win,” she said.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to do that until I had that horrible crash and I just said I am never, ever ever going to be able to get an opportunity to win a World Cup. So what I can do is just keep going and keep pushing.
“And I just want to show the world that I have an opportunity to win in any conditions, no matter what kind of condition I am in, it doesn’t matter — I am not quitting my sport or giving up. I am just going to keep going — I want to retire with a World Cup.”