Monday, February 7, 2011
Lindsey Vonn undecided on status
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Lindsey Vonn has overcome a long list of injuries in her storied skiing career. This latest one -- a concussion that at times disrupts her mental focus -- may prove her most challenging.
"This injury is a lot different than anything I've ever faced before," Vonn said Monday, a day before she's due to defend her gold medal in the super-G that opens the world championships.
"It's not like it's the knee injury or you have a bruise," she added. "There's no pain. It's just I don't have any focus and concentration and it's very difficult. I've had a lot of pain before I can fight through it, but this is not the same."
Vonn landed on her head during a spectacular fall in giant slalom training in Austria last week -- the video posted on her Facebook page is worth watching -- and pulled out of Friday's World Cup slalom. She'll make a decision on competing here moments before Tuesday's race.
Vonn finished 18th in Sunday's giant slalom in nearby Zwiesel.
"I felt good until about 3/4 of the way down the hill and then I just sort of lost focus and stopped attacking, stopped skiing basically," the Minnesota native said during a news conference Monday. "In both runs I lost almost a second in the last 15-20 seconds and I feel like that's mostly because of my head.
"We have to make a smart decision. That's why I pulled myself out of the slalom in Zwiesel, because I felt like I couldn't safely ski down. So I just have to see how I feel in the morning, and see if my condition improves, and take it from there."
Vonn said she had a good read on whether she was feeling better or not.
"It's been getting progressively better every day but I basically just lose track of what I'm saying or just basically don't have as much focus as I usually do," she said. "So I'm going to do my normal warmup in the morning, work out and see how I feel and do the inspection, and I think I'm just going to wait until the last moment and then make a decision."
Vonn is getting used to these last-minute decisions.
When she sliced her thumb open on a champagne bottle during a victory celebration at the last worlds in Val d'Isere, France, two years ago, she used duct tape so she could grip her pole with a cast on and returned for the slalom.
When she injured her shin on the eve of last year's Vancouver Olympics, she introduced the world to topfen cheese as a home remedy, smearing the semisoft dairy product over her wounded leg as she won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G.
All the injuries have led to some speculation that Vonn has gotten into the habit of exaggerating her problems at major competitions to reduce expectations.
"That's totally ridiculous -- I mean, come on," Vonn said, interrupting a reporter who made just such a suggestion. "Life happens and I'm skiing and trying to win races and that means I have to work hard and train hard and sometimes you fall. ... It could happen at any time. It absolutely has nothing to do with big events, world championships, Olympics, whatever. It's just me being me and me crashing. That's all there is to it."
Vonn had daily checks on her head over the weekend.
"Medically she's cleared," said U.S. women's coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "She still feels a little weak at the end of courses, and that's something she needs to find out in her warmup."
Vonn will also have to consider the level of difficulty of the Kandahar course, which is icier and harder than the courses the women usually race on.
"It's too dangerous for the women," Vonn said. "There are already people crashing just in the warmup runs. ... It's way too icy. It's way too icy, and I am basically shocked by it. It's unbelievable."
In a streak stretching back two years, Vonn has reached the podium in her last 19 super-G's, winning 13 of them. One of the few races she didn't win came at the Olympics, after which her husband and chief adviser Thomas accused the Austrian coach who set the course, Juergen Kriechbaum, of deliberately putting down a layout to slow Vonn.
Austria's Andrea Fischbacher won the Olympic race, and Vonn settled for bronze.
Guess what? Kriechbaum has also been selected to set the super-G at these championships under a weighted draw that favors the top skiers in the discipline.
Swiss teenager Lara Gut, who won two silver medals at the last worlds but missed all of last season with a dislocated right hip, announced her full recovery with a super-G win in Zauchensee, Austria, last month.
Vonn has also not fully recovered from a strained left knee. But knowing Vonn's resilience, it will take a lot to prevent her from competing.
"My gut feeling is she'll race," said U.S. women's speed coach Chip White.