VAIL, Colo. – Lindsey Vonn still hasn’t processed the scope of her season-opening victory in Soelden, the win that placed her in a category shared with only four other women in World Cup history who have won races in every discipline (Petra Kronberger, Pernilla Wiberg, Anja Pärson and Janica Kostelic) and rendered her the first American woman to win a World Cup giant slalom race in 20 years.
“I honestly still haven’t quite digested it,” Vonn said from Vail Wednesday, where she was doing her first round of slalom training in about six weeks. “I think once I show up to Aspen with the red bib, maybe it will sink in then. I feel really good right now, really happy. It was just such a good way to start the season.”
For a star who somehow keeps finding new ways to rise higher, Vonn is about the last person to let success go to her head. She is an athlete who will almost always make time for fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures. She is also not above taking it upon herself to call Vail parking security when a couple of her trainers’ cars get booted.
Following Wednesday’s training, she was informed of the boots being placed on the Vonntourage vehicles that were apparently parked in undesignated areas. She called the parking authorities and nicely asked if it could be taken care of. The boots were promptly removed.
Since coming back to the U.S. last week, Vonn has done her usual round of appearances at big fundraisers – a ski ball in New York City and a benefit for Andre Agassi’s nonprofit organization in Las Vegas. Back in Vail, Vonn has moved into a larger place that she’s sharing with her husband and two trainers, whom she hopes will help her cook the meals. And now it’s time to get up to speed in the tight gates.
“It always takes me a little bit in slalom,” Vonn said. “We got a lot of snow here last night, which made things a little inconsistent, but they’re going to inject the hill and it will be good and icy. I think in a week’s time I’ll be ready.”
Slalom – and the course in Levi, Finland – takes Vonn back to her ski racing roots in Minnesota when she was a child. Levi is where Vonn clinched her first ever slalom victory on the World Cup back in 2008 and where she’s posted some of her best slalom results since (second in 2009 and sixth last year).
“I love Levi. It’s probably my favorite slalom hill that there is,” she said. “The top reminds me of Buck Hill so much. It’s a great place to start the season for me. I feel like I always get into a good rhythm in slalom there.”
As for the early trail of fire she’s set this season, Vonn says giant slalom is now on par with speed events in her mind, which of course is a major breakthrough for her.
“I feel like I finally figured out,” she said. “I’m as confident now in GS as I am in super G and downhill … I’ve never even felt close to that before. I hope I can carry this momentum with me throughout the season.”
Watch this exclusive video with Vonn doing slalom training in Vail, dealing with booted cars and talking about moving beyond the “high school drama” that was made last season of her friendship with Maria Hoefl-Riesch.
by Shauna Farnell