Spotlight on the Olympic downhill skier
Posted on February 26, 2010 2:59 PM
Lindsey Vonn came to the Vancouver Olympics with hopes for as many as five medals, a banged-up shin and unmatchable expectations. She leaves with two medals - a gold in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G - a beat-up body, and a smile despite straddling a gate and failing to finish her final event, Friday's slalom.
"I went out there fighting and it just wasn't my day," Vonn said. "I'm totally satisfied with everything I have done here. I have the gold medal I came here for."
Vonn skied 10th in the first run of slalom, held in extremely snowy conditions Friday morning in Whistler, B.C. She has struggled with the discipline this season, and she was well off pace of the leaders when she came late into a right-footed turn, then couldn't recover in time to make the next gate. She straddled the gate, and skied off the course, her Olympics over.
Posted on February 25, 2010 3:53 PM
American Lindsey Vonn will race in the final event of her Olympic program -- the women's slalom Friday -- despite the broken little finger she suffered during a hard crash in Wednesday's giant slalom, according to a U.S. Ski Team official.
Vonn, 25, will thus pursue her third medal of the Vancouver Games with yet another injury. In December, she hurt her wrist during a crash in a World Cup race, an injury that has adversely affected her performance in the technical disciplines, slalom and giant slalom. Then, in training on Feb. 2 in Austria, she bruised her right shin badly enough that she arrived in Canada wondering whether she would be able to compete at all here.
The shin, though, improved enough that Vonn won a gold medal in the downhill and then followed with a bronze in the super-G. But Wednesday, she was diagnosed by Jim Moeller, the chief medical officer of the U.S. Olympic team, as having a "non-displaced fracture of the proximal phalanx of the small finger on her right hand." As of Wednesday night, she had not decided whether to compete in the slalom.
That changed Thursday. Doug Haney, the Alpine Press Officer for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said, "She'll race."
Vonn, though, is likely a long shot for a medal in the event, even if healthy. She has five podium finishes in slalom -- including two wins -- in her World Cup career. But after opening the season with a second-place finish in Levi, Finland, she since has failed to finish four of the six slalom races.
Posted on February 25, 2010 12:25 PM
There might be, in the office in which you are sitting now, someone with whom you simply don't have much in common. Sure, you work at the same place, put your efforts into the same endeavors, have a great deal in common professionally -- goals, hopes, experience, etc. -- but you simply don't click personally. You may even talk to colleagues about your distaste for the way that person goes about their business. Yet you are cordial, professional, and accepting.
Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso are both 25. They are both ski racers. They are both intense competitors. They have both been members of the U.S. Ski Team -- in a way, their employer, their company minus the cubicle --- since they were teenagers. They are the two most decorated female skiers the U.S. has produced: Vonn has an Olympic gold and bronze and two World Cup overall titles, the only American woman to win that coveted championship twice. Mancuso is the only American woman to have three Olympic alpine skiing medals -- a gold and two silvers.
But most of the similarities end there. Vonn is from Minnesota and moved to Vail, Col., before she was a teenager for this reason and this reason only: to train to be an Olympic skier, the best in the world. Mancuso is from California, embraces the mellowness of her native Squaw Valley, and spends her summers surfing in Hawaii. Moreover, skiing is a team sport in name only. The two women draw support and coaching from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, but they're not exactly turning double plays together.
Wednesday morning, the worlds of Vonn and Mancuso collided again, in the most dramatic way they have in their careers. And now, the easy temptation is to take their rivalry to another level. Mancuso is jealous, people will say. Vonn doesn't respect Mancuso, people will say. Vonn crashed in the giant slalom simply to mess with Mancuso. Mancuso is irate at Vonn for crashing just before her, stopping Mancuso's run and all but eliminating a chance to defend her gold medal in the event.
Wednesday night, with those storylines taking hold, Mancuso wrote the following on her Facebook page:Permalink | Comments (18)
Posted on February 24, 2010 1:36 PM
This is getting a bit chippy. We like chippy.
Julia Mancuso, avid readers of the blog will recall from down below, was angry about being forced to trudge back to the top of the mountain to repeat her first run in the giant slalom. This came about because Lindsey Vonn crashed and had not gotten off the course. Mancuso was forced to run again on a deteriorating course.
Tweeted Mancuso, between runs: i was flagged in gs, that is [BS]! well now its time to use that anger and fight scond run!!
But, wait! There's more! Mancuso also tweets: that yellow flag in the GS was such... I just want to scream. I'm really miffed. Anyway, gotta take that energy and focus it for 2nd run.
Vonn, when asked about the issue, said (via Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News on Twitter): "That happens in ski racing, and all you can do is deal with the hand that you're dealt."
All righty then.
As Vinton put it on Twitter: Haven't seen this much Olympic re-run and rivalry drama since Jean-Claude Killy and Karl Shranz in Grenoble 1968 (not that I saw that).
In case you're trying to decide whether to side with Mancuso or Vonn, Vinton points out on Twitter: Ski racing rules: Racer must stop for yellow flag, and jury must reinsert them into the order sometime before the last racer.Permalink | Comments (1)
Posted on February 24, 2010 12:19 PM
Four years ago, Julia Mancuso wasn't expected to win the giant slalom at the Turin Olympics. You could say the same thing on this snowy Wednesday morning. Mancuso hasn't finished better than 13th in a World Cup giant slalom race this season.
But Mancuso wasn't expected to win the two silvers she has already won here, and she's perhaps the most intriguing character in the 86-racer field. A look at a few of them, with their starting positions. (First run scheduled for 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST, second at 1:15 p.m. PST/4:15 p.m. EST.)
Posted on February 23, 2010 7:47 AM
With less than a week left in the Olympics, here's the Lindsey Vonn scorecard:
Events entered: 3
Medals won: 2 (1 gold, 1 bronze)
Events remaining: 2
Events in which Vonn is a strong medal contender: 1
The final two women's alpine skiing events -- the giant slalom on Wednesday and the slalom on Friday -- are Vonn's weakest. She could medal in the slalom, but the giant slalom would be a surprise.Permalink | Comments (0)
Posted on February 18, 2010 3:20 PM
Lindsey Vonn crashed on her slalom run and did not finish the second race of the Olympic super combined Alpine event, which means that Maria Riesch of Germany has won the gold medal. Julia Mancuso won her second silver medal in as many days and Anja Paerson of Sweden took the bronze.
The leader after the downhill race, Vonn, who had not practiced the slalom in two weeks because of a bruised shin, clipped a gate and went down. The slalom is not Vonn's strength; Riesch leads the World Cup slalom standings and Vonn has failed to finish three of the seven slalom races held on the World Cup circuit this season. She did not qualify for the second run in another.
Riesch finished .94 of a second ahead of Mancuso with a combined time in the downhill and slalom of 2:09.14. Paerson was 1.05 seconds behind Riesch.
In an interview between the downhill and slalom events, Vonn told reporters that her shin felt worse than it had since she resumed training last week, according to Barry Svrluga.
"It's definitely by no means over," Vonn said. "Maria is right on my tail, and I don't know if I can hold her back in the slalom. I haven't skied slalom in, like, three-and-a-half weeks, except for that one [practice] day, so I really don't know what to expect."
The women do not race Friday; they return to the mountain for the super-G -- another speed event with a few more turns than downhill -- on Saturday.Permalink | Comments (1)
Posted on February 18, 2010 1:37 PM
Lindsey Vonn took a step toward another Olympic medal Thursday morning, winning the downhill portion of the super combined Alpine event at Whistler Creekside.
Vonn, the American star who took a dramatic and emotional gold medal in the downhill Wednesday, now must hold off the rest of the field in the slalom portion, which begins at 12:30 p.m. PST. The super combined gold is awarded to the racer with the lowest cumulative time in the two legs.
"It was a long, long day yesterday, and I didn't get as much rest as I was hoping for," Vonn told reporters at the base of the mountain, which was being reset for slalom. "Especially with my shin, I need a little bit more time and therapy to try to get it to feel better."
She will face stout competition in the afternoon. Her time of 1 minute, 24.16 seconds over a shortened, less-severe version of the downhill course used Wednesday was only .33 of a second better than her best friend and top rival, Germany's Maria Riesch. American Julia Mancuso, the surprise silver medalist in the downhill, had another strong run, taking the early lead and finishing third, .80 of a second back.
Riesch, who skied poorly Wednesday and finished eighth in the downhill, nearly crashed at the top of her downhill run Thursday, losing her balance for a moment off the first jump. But she held it together, and by the bottom section of the course was making time up on Vonn, who skied immediately before her.
Vonn added that her bruised right shin felt worse than it had since she resumed training last week. But she conceded nothing.
"It's definitely by no means over," Vonn said. "Maria is right on my tail, and I don't know if I can hold her back in the slalom. I haven't skied slalom in, like, three-and-a-half weeks, except for that one [practice] day, so I really don't know what to expect."
Posted on February 18, 2010 12:12 PM
The downhill portion of the women's super-combined event has just ended and Lindsey Vonn is in first place, Maria Reisch of Germany is second and Julia Mancuso is third.
Skiing will resume with the slalom portion of the event starting at 3:30 EST. Barry Svrluga, who's on the mountain at Whistler, B.C., will file a report here shortly. Until then, you could get some work done or check out the men's curling
match game thing between the U.S. and Denmark; it's actually being shown live on USA Network. The score is 3-3 after six ends and, among other important questions, you really have to ask what the Danes were thinking when they went with the white belts.
Reisch moves into second
Lindsey Vonn's good friend, Maria Reisch of Germany, moves into second place with a time of 1:24.49, .33 behind Vonn and .80 ahead of Julia Mancuso of the U.S.
(As if this weren't exciting enough, the United States and Denmark are locked in a 3-3 men's curling duel after five ends. I fear I'm not doing this justice.)
Vonn knocks Mancuso from the lead
Lindsey Vonn nudges Julia Mancuso out of first place in the super combined with a strong downhill performance (that's the event in which she won gold Wednesday) in Whistler, B.C.
Vonn, who went 18th in the field of 35 skiers, skied the course in 1:24.16, moving ahead of Mancuso's 1:24.96.
Next up for Vonn is the slalom portion of the event (at 3:30 EST). The downhill is considered to be Vonn's strong suit; the slalom is a potential weakness.
Naturally, NBC is not televising the skiing live, but the intrepid internet user can find a live feed. Just sayin'.
Mancuso's early lead still holding up
After 15 skiers from the field of 35 had raced in the downhill portion of the super combined event Thursday, Julia Mancuso, silver medalist for the United States in the downhill Wednesday, was in first place. She was the third skier down the course and finished with a time of 1:24.96. Marie Marchand-Arvier of France is presently second (1:25.41) and Gina Stechert of Germany is third (1:25.44).
The super combined schedule
It's Day 2 at LindseyLand -- a k a Whistler, B.C., -- with Lindsey Vonn, the United States skier who won gold in the downhill Wednesday, skiing in the women's super combined (downhill and slalom) today.
The first portion of the event, the downhill, goes off at 12:30 p.m. (EST) with Vonn racing 18th and Julia Mancuso, silver medalist to Vonn's gold, skiing third. Kaylin Richardson of the United States goes 25th and Leann Smith, also of the U.S., goes 28th in the 35-skier field.
The slalom portion of the event begins at 3:30 EST.
Women's course made safer
There were a ton of crashes in Wednesday's downhill and Olympic organizers made the course safter overnight, according to the Associated Press. The final jump, which sent some skiers flying, was changed, according to an Associated Press story.
"We will try to ease things down a little bit,'' women's race director Atle Skaardal said, according to the AP. "I think [the course] was acceptable, for sure. But it's very difficult, no question about it.''
The target of the change was "Hot Air," the icy crest that launches skiers. According to the AP, it previously was altered after practice Monday because of safety concerns.
Posted on February 17, 2010 1:43 PM
It's officially over: Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso finish 1-2 in the women's downhill. It's the third time two Americans have finished 1-2 in an Olympic Alpine race, and the first time in 26 years
Here's a recap of the day:
Lindsey Vonn will make her Olympic debut shortly, as the women's downhill takes place at 2 p.m. EST today in Whistler, B.C.
Vonn is scheduled to ski 16th out of the field of 45; check back here for updates as the event progresses.Permalink | Comments (3)
Posted on February 17, 2010 11:35 AM
There's no snow in the sky in Whistler, and just a few clouds, so conditions should be close to perfect when the women's downhill - the first women's Alpine race of the Vancouver Olympics - finally gets under way at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST). Some highlights from the start list.
2nd - Chemmy Alcott, Great Britain: One of the best friends of American Julia Mancuso is skiing for a ski federation that is officially went bankrupt a week before the Olympics began.
4th - Stacey Cook, USA: One of only two skiers to attempt the first training run last week, Cook wiped out and had to be taken off the mountain by helicopter. She suffered no major injuries, and is back to compete in her second Olympics. She was 19th in the downhill in 2006.
6th - Britt Janyk, Canada: Skiing on her home mountain, Janyk will try to overcome recent struggles in the downhill. She won a World Cup downhill race in 2007 but hasn't been back on the podium since.
Posted on February 16, 2010 5:03 PM
Lindsey Vonn's first race should go off as scheduled Wednesday.
The women will almost certainly get to race for the first time at the Vancouver Games. Forecasts for the rest of the week call for drier weather, and that would allow officials to properly prepare the course for the downhill -- which Vonn enters as a heavy favorite despite the fact she arrived here with a painful shin injury.
"She's prepared to race when there's a race, that's for certain," her husband, Thomas Vonn, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "She'll be ready to go 100 percent. Now, if there was an option to have more time off, she would take it. But when there's no option, she'll be ready to compete."
Vonn, 25, has been alternately devastated and encouraged since she arrived in Canada a week ago -- and she hasn't even raced. Sunday, with the women's super combined wiped out by weather, she trained four runs of slalom and came away feeling great about the injury. Monday, she ran her first official training run -- a two-step process that involved skiing the top portion of the downhill course in the morning and the bottom in the afternoon -- and came away immediately feeling pain, and discouraged again.
"I think she got over that a little bit," Thomas Vonn said. "It definitely hurt, especially that big jump at the end. I think [the media] all caught her right when she finished, like five or 10 minutes later, and it was definitely a bit more negative than if she had time to get away and let the pain die down. Overall it was a good day."
Posted on February 15, 2010 5:53 PM
For the first time since she arrived in Vancouver six days earlier, Lindsey Vonn skied official training runs in preparation for what was expected to be a stellar Olympics. Her Monday started out just perfectly when she posted the fastest time over the top portion of the course that will be used in Wednesday's downhill, the first women's event of the competition.
But in the afternoon, worries that Vonn hoped to dismiss were back again. Her deeply bruised shin, which at one point threatened her entire Olympic program, flared up again. Her 20th-place finish -- and the pain that accompanied it -- had Vonn clearly concerned afterward.
"It went okay," she said as she walked off the hill. "It was really tough. It was really, really bumpy and really painful the whole way down, and especially in the second run -- that last jump hurt."
Posted on February 14, 2010 5:50 PM
American skier Lindsey Vonn trained hard on her badly bruised shin Sunday afternoon, her first true training session since the injury occurred Feb. 2. The result? An Olympic program that once appeared in jeopardy is now back on, and Vonn is now focused on maximizing her performance, not just getting in shape to compete.
"She's not in the mind-set that, 'I hope I can do this, I hope I can be ready for the races,'" her husband, Thomas Vonn, said in a telephone interview. "Now, it's more of a determination to get back some of the mileage that she lost and start to get up to race speed. ...
"It's shifted to a different gear. The pain is still there, but it's not even close to where we were."
Posted on February 11, 2010 9:12 PM
Nasty weather on the mountain at Whistler forced officials to call off Thursday's downhill training session -- a break for Lindsey Vonn and her injured shin. Barry Svrluga's story on the fortunate cancelation for Vonn is up now.
"We are thrilled to death that they postponed today, absolutely," said Vonn's husband, former Olympic skier Thomas Vonn, shortly after the cancellation. "The more time, the better that she has to rest it."
Vonn's first event is the combined, scheduled for Sunday.Permalink | Comments (1)
Posted on February 11, 2010 1:47 PM
Lindsey Vonn made her warm-up run prior to the first session of downhill training at Whistler Creekside Thursday morning, and according to her husband, she's ready to train despite her shin injury.
"She was in pain," Thomas Vonn said. "But considering what we've been through, it was as good as could be expected. She wasn't like gritting her teeth. She was like, 'Let's go. I can do this.'"
Vonn, 25, badly bruised the shin a week ago in training. She has questioned her ability to compete at all in these Olympics, which are her third. But Thomas Vonn said this morning that's no longer a possibility. She tried on her right ski boot Wednesday night, and it was markedly better than it had been on her last attempt, on Monday.
"She couldn't have tried it on Monday," Thomas Vonn said.
Training is just now getting under way despite snow in Whistler. Vonn will start 15th. Updates to follow.
Posted on February 11, 2010 11:15 AM
Many expected Lindsey Vonn to be the American star of the Vancouver Games, columnist Tracee Hamilton writes today. But the injury Vonn revealed Wednesday may change that -- as well as the television ratings potential for NBC.
NBC, which has already self-reported an expected $200 million loss on these Games, was banking on Vonn's attempt to win five medals as a sort of Phelpsian quest. (It's no accident that she first revealed her injury to Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.) However, Michael Phelps was never shy about declaring his intention of winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing. Vonn never made any such promises, and she's not as universally strong across all five events as Phelps was in his eight.
What happens now? Maybe a standout from a lesser-known sport will steal the spotlight, Hamilton says.
For the Nordic sports, the timing is perfect. This country has never been stronger in these disciplines than it is in February 2010. An American is among the top biathletes in the world (that's cross-country skiing and shooting, by the way). The U.S. contingent is a strong medal favorite in Nordic combined (that's cross-country skiing and ski jumping). And the cross-country team is the best that we've ever sent to the Olympics.
All that's missing is the one thing America wants more than anything: a medal. Preferably gold, but silver or bronze would work, too.Permalink | Comments (0)
Posted on February 10, 2010 9:32 PM
Thomas Vonn is not only Lindsey Vonn's husband - he married the former Lindsey Kildow in 2007 - but he's also a former elite ski racer who reached the Olympics in 2002. He is well-acquainted with the injury his wife suffered in training last week, a condition ski racers refer to as "shin-bang," which leaves the leg badly bruised after it collides with the ski boot in a crash.
That doesn't mean, though, that he knows what will happen as Lindsey Vonn tries to deal with the pain of her injury in the next few days leading up to her first scheduled event, Sunday's super combined.
"Do I think she'll miss the whole Olympics? No, I don't," Thomas Vonn said by phone Wednesday evening. "But as far as whether she'll be able to do the training tomorrow or be ready for the super combined, I truly don't know. ... I honestly can't tell you if she'll be able to do it."Permalink | Comments (0)
Posted on February 10, 2010 2:26 PM
American skier Lindsey Vonn, a hopeful for as many as five medals over the next three weeks, said Wednesday morning that there is a possibility she won't be able to compete in the Vancouver Olympics because of a serious shin bruise she suffered last week in training.
"A very interesting ride," Vonn said at a packed news conference in Vancouver. "Very emotional. Very scared. And not the positive way you want to be starting the Olympics."
Vonn suffered the injury to her right shin while training for slalom last Tuesday in Austria. On the first run of the day, she said, she "got twisted funny and went over the front of my skis." She hyper-extended her leg and "all the force went onto my shin."
Posted on February 10, 2010 9:06 AM
The first major news of the Olympics comes even before the Olympics begin. Lindsey Vonn, the alpine skier who is expected to be the featured performer on the American team and perhaps the star of the Games, revealed Wednesday morning that she has an badly bruised shin that has affected her preparation for Vancouver and could prevent her participation in any of the five disciplines in which she is scheduled to compete.
"When I tried my boot on, I was just standing in the hotel room barely flexing forward and it was excruciatingly painful," Vonn said on NBC's "Today Show." "And I've got to try to ski downhill at 75-80 miles per hour with a lot of forces pushed up against my shin, and I don't honestly know if I'll be able to do it."Permalink | Comments (15)
Posted on February 9, 2010 7:17 AM
At Ski Magazine's SKI Blog, they surfed over to SI.com to investigated the obvious question after Lindsey Vonn appeared in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue: Is it inappropriate, demeaning or worse for a female athlete to pose in a skimpy bikini?
We followed the link--strictly out of professional diligence, mind you. Controversy exploded in the office. "Inappropriate," the women said. "She's demeaning herself. She's a world-class athlete and she shouldn't have to resort to sex-kitten photos."
"Oh, sure," the guys countered. "And when it's Nomar Garciapara or Lebron James all oiled up and shirtless, you don't have a problem with that!"Permalink | Comments (0)
Posted on February 2, 2010 10:08 AM
What does Laddie Lee Whitworth of Pocatello, Idaho have to do with the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver? Well, the retired machinist is responsible for the design on the helmet Lindsey Vonn will wear when she skis in competition.
Vonn held a contest for fans through NBCOlympics.com to design the artwork for her Olympic helmet. The winning design was unveiled Jan. 28, and it was Whitworth's.
"I'm 60 years old, and this is one of the highlights of my life. I am actually going to be able to watch an Olympian ski with something on their head that I designed. I hope that when Lindsey bears down the hill, the helmet can keep up with her because she skis like she's on fire."
Whitworth's winning design and the runners-up are featured on a special page on NBC's Olympic site. Vonn's reaction:
"Thanks to Laddie for his awesome design. It's really dynamic and will look cool when I am skiing downhill -- like the flames are flying by really fast."Permalink | Comments (0)
Posted on January 13, 2010 9:58 AM
During a recent World Cup event, Austrian coaches claimed that Vonn's staggering success in downhill events was a direct reflection of her weight (she is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds). They argued that her size and the fact that she uses men's skis give her an unfair advantage over her generally smaller competitors.
"I think it's just pretty ridiculous," Vonn said. "It definitely irritated me. It definitely gave me a little extra motivation on race day. I think, in all fairness, I think it was exaggerated on part of the journalists. As a woman, I kind of want to drop the subject, if I can.
"To me, I pride myself on my work ethic. I know how hard I work in the gym. I give everything to my sport. I work really hard, and for someone to say I'm overweight is just ridiculous in my mind. . . . You have to be powerful and agile, and if weight were the key to success in ski racing, then everyone would be stuffing their face with food."
Many who defend Vonn point to her success in disciplines other than speed events, such as slalom, as evidence that skill, rather than size, is the reason for her dominance.Permalink | Comments (0)
About Lindsey Vonn
American downhiller Lindsey Vonn is regarded as the world's best female skier primarily because of her 31 World Cup race wins and her consecutive combined World Championships in 2008 and 2009. The 2010 Games mark the third Olympic appearance for Vonn, 25, as well as an opportunity to win her first medal. However, injury concerns revealed two days before the start of the Games cast some doubt on her ability to excel in Vancouver.
- Feb. 17, 2 p.m.
- Feb. 18, 12:30 p.m.: Downhill
- Feb. 18, 3:30 p.m.: Slalom
- Feb. 20, 1 p.m.
Women's Giant Slalom
- Feb. 24, 1 p.m.: First run
- Feb. 24, 6:15 p.m.: Second run
- Feb. 26, 1 p.m.: First run
- Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m.: Second run